By SAM HOUSEHOLDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Local high school engineering students are heading to Houston early next month to compete for a miles per gallon title.
Super high mileage teams from Fairfield and Goshen high schools are traveling together to the Shell Eco Marathon, leaving on April 3 and returning on April 9.
According to Goshen engineering technology education teacher JJ Johnson, this will be his team’s second trip to Houston and the first for Fairfield’s team.
Each school has competed at a competition in Indianapolis in past years and will again later this spring.
Senior Wesley Hathaway, a captain for one of Goshen’s two vehicles, the “beta” car, says the competition involves driving the car for 10 laps around a street course in downtown Houston and then fuel consumption is calculated. Teams compete for three days and the best mileage from any 10-lap run is used.
Senior Ian Maxwell, in his second year on the project, said they are expecting to achieve between 1,000 and 1,500 mpg.
Johnson, however, tried to downplay the students’ enthusiasm.
“We’ve set a realistic goal of 1,000 MPG,” he said.
Hathaway said the two cars differ only in their build structure, the “alpha” car is a monocoque design, meaning the balsa wood and figerglass fused body is structurally holding the car together, while the “beta” car is an aluminium chassis with a fiberglass body.
Johnson said the class has many benefits for his students.
“This is the application of everything that students learn throughout the school; math, English, science, it’s all here in this project,” he said. “It’s a great motivation tool for the students and it’s something that they can take a lot of ownership in and build team work skills.”
Students say that it has helped form future career choices for them as they leave high school.
For example, Abbs said he is going to Trine University to pursue a degree in civil engineering. Other students said before the class, engineering was not something they thought about for a career.
“I didn’t even consider this as an option for later in life,” Hathaway said. “It’s really opened up my eyes to the whole world of engineering and ever since taking this (class), it’s definitely going to be a huge option in my life later on.”
“It’s pretty cool, it’s definitely a different experience than most school classes,” he said. “It’s all problem-solving, coming up with ideas, figuring out what to do and how to adjust it and when you see a problem, you figure out how to fix it.”
As for the competition, Abbs, the only member returning to Houston for the second time and driver for the “beta” car, and his teammates hope to achieve new records for their team.
“It’s the four years I’ve put into it and we’ve gotten better throughout the years and I’ve done more complex things,” he said. “It would be nice to go out with a bang and do the best that we’ve done ever and show for all my hard work the past four years.”