SYRACUSE — Cameron Gillum wanted to be on the Wawasee Supermileage team since elementary school.
The team had an accident the night before one of its competitions, forcing the team to spend all night to fix it. Amidst this chaos, Gillum fell in love with joining this team.
“Most people would think those guys are crazy, but I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I can’t think of anything else I’d want to do except that,’” Gillum said. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid to be on the team, and I think we’ve done pretty well.”
The team did more than well this summer, as they earned second place in the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2019 Technical Inspection competition in London, England. Nearly 140 teams from more than 40 countries competed to see who could create the most fuel-efficient car.
The DTU Roadrunners, a team from the Technical School of Denmark, won with a car that averaged 1,010 miles-per-gallon. Wawasee Gold maximized its car out at 916 miles-per-gallon.
Advancing to the London competition was the culmination of a three-year journey for coach Allen Coblentz.
For years, the team worked on “prototype” models, which are smaller and only use three wheels. Those types of cars are not eligible to compete in the London competition, however, leading to Coblentz’s son, Rhett, to ask for a change.
In Rhett’s senior year of high school at Wawasee, 2016-17, they moved to “urban development” cars, which have four wheels and are more advanced. They weren’t used to this type of car at first, however, so it was a process to learn how to build a car for this competition.
They spent two years learning to build an urban development car. They were close to winning the U.S. competition in Sonoma, Calif. in 2017-18 that would’ve advanced them to the London competition, but something went wrong in their final run, falling just short of advancing.
The 2018-19 team was able to take what the prior two years accomplished and build off it.
“This group did a lot of optimizing,” Coblentz said. “Obviously, we did a good job of making those improvements and getting the mileage we got.”
Coblentz mentioned three things when trying to get the best mileage out of a car: creating a roll, getting rid of any drag and maximizing engine power. The latter of the three is the most difficult to do, as you have to do multiple rounds of testing to make sure your engine is getting the most energy out of every drop of fuel.
“They spent three, four weeks testing and recording data. That’s not the most exciting thing to do, but at the end of the day, that’s what gets you your mileage,” Coblentz said.
Wawasee won the U.S. competition in April to qualify for the European championship. Shell paid for nine of the team members to go to London, and the team raised money for the remaining five — plus the coaching staff — to join them. The team consisted of Gillum, Brandon Baker, Jack Collins, Evan Dippon, Stephen Foy, Logan Hollar, Bryce Knepp, Zach Leedy, Eric Martinez, Marshal Miller, Nicholas Murphy, Micah Rassi, Jackson Templin and Luke Weisser. Scott Fox and Dominick Faurote served as assistant coaches for Coblentz.
“The community, individuals and companies got behind us and did a great job of supporting this group of kids to give them this opportunity,” Coblentz said.
The team spent about a week in London. There were multiple days of racing, leading up to the Drivers’ World Championship Final on July 5. Wawasee was one of nine schools to qualify for the final and the only high school team to do so.
“We went into it not knowing what to expect because we didn’t know what we were up against,” Gillum said. “It was really incredible to see what we could do from a small town in Indiana.”
Coblentz was happy with the second-place finish, but was even more proud with how his team represented Wawasee and themselves.
“Just the way they handled themselves at the competition, the way they responded, just being classy,” Coblentz said. “Just an attitude that was full of graciousness. That’s a testament to the kids.”
This was Gillum’s last year at Wawasee. He plans on studying for a year in the Dominican Republic, doing mission work before transferring back to Purdue University to study business and poly tech.
He served as the captain of the Supermileage team this year, which was the cherry on top for the 17-year-old living out a childhood dream.
“Supermileage has been why I was excited to go to school these past two years. Being able to work on the car with my friends, with Mr. Coblentz — we’re always learning, always figuring out better ways to do things. It’s changed my life 110 percent,” Gillum said. “I can’t really imagine what I’d be doing without it. I’m not sure where I’d be as a person.”
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN