By Lucy Perry
Indiana Central News
SULLIVAN COUNTY -- Tools, parts and materials are strewn around, as though there is a work in progress in one Sullivan High School classroom. That's because students in the Super Mileage Club are putting the final touches on their innovative eco super mileage cars, as they prepare to hit state and national competions next month
Earning top honors three times in nine years in both gasoline and diesel classes, engineering teacher and Coach Brian Wagaman, 42, says the Shell Eco-marathon gets even more challenging for the team each time. The diesel class has been eliminated this go around, and the team will compete against all internal combustion engines -- which raises the bar in the competition.
The annual event is held in Detroit, Mich. during a four-day festival downtown April 27-30 . High school students from Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the United States., will design, build and drive cars to compete -- not in speed--- but efficiency, and to determine what team can make it the farthest on the track by using the least amount of fuel, according to the Shell website,
This time around, the group is tweaking last year's models.
"Engineering is making it better and learning from your mistakes and successes," Wagaman said, adding, "So, it's a contantly innovative process."
The nine participants enjoy the experiences they are having as students in the classroom and while putting together the two diesel vehicles as a team -- prototype and an urban concept cars. They are proud to have the community rooting for the team, with nearly 40 sponsors helping to make it possible for the them to take part in the competitions. The team consists of memebers: Keegan Meng,16; William Drappo; 16, Gage Smitley, 18; Jakob Barney, 17; Gavin Wright, 15; Kylie Wagaman, 14, Jessica Walls, 16, Emily Langston, 15 and Assistant Coach Jim Piantedosi , technologyl education teacher at the school.
Yesterday, many of the team members said the challenge of the competition is what they enjoy the most.
"My favorite part is the challenge that you have to overtake to produce and design a car that will race, but will also gain fuel mileage," Barney said.
The cars are small, typically requiring a small-framed driver, about 110 pounds in weight and with a valid drivers license. Langston, a sophomore, will drive April 10 in the Indianapolis competition. Walls, a senior, will be driving this year in Detroit. Taking the wheel of the small vehicles, they start and then coast for as long as they can to obtain the most efficiency. The urban concept car is somewhat bigger, allowing Barney, a junior, to drive it in Detroit. The car has four wheels instead of three and is front-wheel drive, Wagaman explained, adding that most are rear-wheel drive. It also has to include room for luggage, hydraulic brakes and one windshield wiper blade.
All the schools at the competition this year realize that they will be in the spotlight, as top auto executives are watching closely what the young students are bringing to the track. In fact, 2014- 2015 was a "whirlwind" year for Sullivan High School's team. They reportedly set a new record achieving 1,899.32 MPG with their vehicle in the diesel class that year. They were flown to New York City to be featured on NBC's "Today Show," because of their success in the competition. That team also met talk show host Jay Leno.
The focus is on changing trends in auto design, energy technology and transportation.
They'd like to win the national championship, but regardless of how they place, the experience alone is what it's all about. While in Detroit, the group plans to see a Broadway play, attend a professional baseball game and eat a meal in Greektown.
According to a Shell Eco-marathon Americas press release, "These students are among the 1,000 from across the Americas, including Canada, Mexico, Brazil and the U.S., that will compete in Detroit. Last year’s winning team from Quebec, Canada achieved 2,585 MPG. By comparison, today’s most fuel-efficient vehicle only achieves the equivalent of 136 mpg, according to the U.S. Department of Energy."
Lucy Perry can be reached at Lperrynews@gmail.com