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Students Strive to Beat Last Year’s 2,188 mpg Achievement

Teams finishing their super-mileage vehicles to create feasible approaches to energy challenges for upcoming competition.
Students prepare their car for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas

Students prepare their car for the race at Shell Eco-marathon Americas

More than 1,000 innovative high school and university students from across the Americas are racing to finish their vehicles in time for the seventh annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Houston on April 4-7.

There, they will all aim to surpass last year’s achievement of 2,188 miles per gallon. That impressive mileage was attained by a team at Mater Dei High School of Evansville, Ind., that is once again “in it to win it” with four vehicles registered. The team from Quebec’s Université Laval that achieved the highest mileage for three consecutive years prior is working fast and furiously on its vehicles and looking for redemption.

Competitors come from a myriad of backgrounds and experience levels, with novice teams competing against teams who have been participating since it began in the Americas in 2007. Despite these differences, the teams share a common vision: to come together to create feasible approaches to address future energy challenges.

“Shell Eco-marathon is a visible demonstration of how we can all face, head-on, the growing demand for energy worldwide in a responsible way,” says Mark Singer, Shell Eco-marathon Global Project Manager. “Shell Eco-marathon inspires all of us to think about energy efficiency, and it offers a way to work on tomorrow’s energy solutions in a practical way today.”

Teams from Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States will put their super-mileage vehicles to the test this year. Around the world, Shell Eco-marathons attract future leaders in science and engineering who are passionate about finding solutions to global energy challenges. The event tasks students to build, design and compete with their high-mileage vehicles in competitions held annually in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

“Fueling” Friendly Competition and Continued Team Growth

Shell Eco-marathon Americas really isn’t about finishing first or breaking records, but the event does generate some friendly competition and rivalries between teams that have participated in the competition for the past several years.

The event also has generated hometown rivalry between many local and nearby high schools and colleges who are eager to best one another, including California-based schools University of California, Los Angeles, Monrovia High School and California Polytechnic Institute.

The Americas event continues to grow with more than 20 new schools registered this year.

Teams from Saint Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minn., and Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn., are looking to make their mark this year. Swarthmore’s two person team is the smallest in the competition. The duo hopes to challenge themselves this year while gaining experience by participating in the well-known competition.

This year is also the first time that Alabama is represented as the University of Alabama at Birmingham has a team entrant. After rallying for permission to participate, team “UAB” is constructing its vehicle. Team members have set high standards for their first appearance at the event, with a goal of achieving 1,000 mpg.

And in Mexico, students at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) are hard at work finishing their two contending vehicles. Unlike many other teams who can make modifications up to the event, UNAM set an ambitious deadline to have their vehicles completed six weeks before the competition to allow for enough time to transport them to Houston. But to the team, it’s a small price to pay, and they are looking forward to surpassing their goals at their second competition.

Students at the Universidade Federal de Santa Caterina in Brazil are also under a tight deadline to make their vehicle even lighter and more efficient this year. Last year, the team achieved its goal of placing in the top 10 in the popular Prototype Gasoline category and looks forward to returning to the competition this year with a new goal of placing in the top three in the same category.

Rallying the Community for Support

For other students, it’s less about achieving the greatest mpg and more about simply getting on the track. Funding and community involvement is very important and supporters can make all the difference.

Last year, James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, N.C., rallied for sponsorship and with the help of the local community, sent eight members to Houston. This year, the team, called “Let’s Do it Again,” is hoping to raise enough funds to send the entire team. While the students are looking forward to competing, for them it’s also about getting more experience and learning from other schools.

Ricky Lewis, the team’s advisor, said of last year’s event, “We danced on the same floor as Purdue University and Penn State University. And we weren’t the best dancers, but we made the dance.” Additionally, Ricky Lewis says his team’s involvement in Shell Eco-marathon Americas has enabled him to integrate science, technology engineering and math (STEM) principles which have stimulated creativity and innovation in the students.

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks has also seen firsthand the challenges of funding and is working hard to overcome them. The team has a long way to travel to bring its six vehicles, appropriately named after Santa’s reindeers, to the competition.

Helping Students Prepare for the “Real World”

Shell Eco-marathon Americas helps students prepare for life in the “real world,” with many going on to pursue careers in the energy and technology industries. Students at Brockport High School in Brockport, N.Y., are contacting car companies to understand the most efficient motor type. A former Penn State student used his experience and now works for NASCAR.

Participating in Shell Eco-marathon Americas also can help students determine what they want to study before getting full-time work.

Shante Stowell, a former member of the “ShopGirls,” an all-girls team from Granite Falls High School outside of Seattle, Wash.,

leveraged her participation in Shell Eco-marathon Americas while applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she’s now a student.

Colin Hosli, a former member of the Louisiana Tech team, credits his experience in Shell Eco-marathon Americas as the kickoff to his career as a well interventions engineer at Shell.

While working with the team to safely develop a highly fuel efficient, soundly engineered vehicle, Colin found his calling and knew he wanted to work in a place where the environment, safety and collaboration are of utmost importance.

Thinking about the Energy Future

The world’s population is growing all the time and, with it, the global demand for energy. As a result, we need new, sustainable ways to meet the rising demand.

So, for Shell Eco-marathon 2013, students are encouraged to be part of the conversation by participating in a new prize category, The Global Energy Challenge: A Look to the Future.

The new prize category asks student teams to consider the wider energy context that surrounds their fantastic achievements in the mileage challenge. To participate, each school must submit at least one infographic that answers one of three energy-related questions provided by Shell. Submissions for the Americas teams are due by March 25 and the winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Shell Eco-marathon Americas.

In addition to the student competition, Shell will host Powering Progress Together in Houston. It’s a one-day event that strives to demonstrate the need for and value of systemic thinking and collaboration among corporations, NGOs and academics about the complex relationship between the production and use of food, energy and water – also called the Stress Nexus.

For more information on all 2013 events across the globe, including the complete Americas 2013 roster, schedule and official rules, please visit the Shell Eco-marathon website at www.shell.com/ecomarathon. For more information on the history of the event, visit http://www.shell.com/global/environment-society/ecomarathon/about/history.html

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