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The DH2S (114), Prototype, running on Hydrogen, competing for team DHS Fuel Cell Car from Darien High School goes through technical inspection for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 on Friday, April 5, 2013 in downtown Houston.

The DH2S (114), Prototype, running on Hydrogen, competing for team DHS Fuel Cell Car from Darien High School goes through technical inspection for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013 on Friday, April 5, 2013 in downtown Houston.

More than 100 student teams have spent months preparing for Shell Eco-marathon Americas.  They arrived Thursday with hopes of seeing their hard work pay off. As the day wore on and problems mounted, some teams realized they still had a lot of work to do.

Newcomers Darien High School from Connecticut, for instance, came to Houston with high expectations for their first year competing in the Prototype Hydrogen electric category.

But after several failures at the technical inspection station, the team realized it would need to change categories to Battery Electric to have any chance of reaching the track.  That’s a big last minute switch, but fortunately this event attracts smart people who like to help.

Veteran teams from around the cavernous paddock area stepped up for this group in need. St. Paul’s donated a spare battery, Penn State gave them a battery charger, the University of Illinois provided the kill switch and the University of Colorado at Boulder shared advice on how to file aluminum faster.

Purdue University and James B. Dudley High School also stayed late Saturday evening to watch and offer advice.

The Darien team worked through the night and, Sunday morning, passed through a final technical inspection and readied for their track run.

“The support from the more seasoned teams has been amazing,” said Leon Strecker, Darien’s team advisor. “Their help really embodied the true spirit of what this competition is all about, and they’ve given these guys new hope.”

The team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), made up of five seniors and also new to the competition, is hopes to reach the track in time for the Prototype runs. After realizing their current design would not pass inspection, the team took a big risk – scrapping everything and starting over.

The UAB team borrowed materials and even dug through dumpsters for parts. A discarded bicycle provided handle bars for steering.

“Our goal at this point is just to make it on the track,” said Blake Feltman, team manager. “If nothing else, we hope that we’ve been able to lay the groundwork for next year’s team and come back as a contender.”

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Shell Eco-marathon Americas

The event is open to the public for all three days of the event and accessible (Discovery Green) dawn to dusk.