We need much more rain.
Whenever it rains on a Friday, I always think of my college roommate Sam Hauptman. She loved rainy Fridays. She was a strong and vivacious student in one of the toughest accounting programs in Philadelphia. By Friday, she was exhausted. A rainy Friday was an excuse to slow down.
This was a demanding week at the Sustainability Workshop. It was hot. The students are getting antsy with their projects because more challenges surface in medias res. One of my favorite students to sit across from is Kenrick. His facial expressions exhibit stress, determination, annoyance, tiredness, and having to work on the same team as Vivian. Kenrick talks out loud a lot. Most of the time it is about the cost of his textbooks, the weather, and how he needs more tokens. None of his verbal stream of conscience is about the Birght Ideas project. That might be a problem.
We need more rain. Rain allows a chance for our vegetable garden to survive and grow tomatoes. I told Ale that one of my favorite memories of my father is planting a vegetable garden with him. He asked me when I was in third grade to devise a trap that would keep away the deer and groundhogs. We have annoying groundhogs at the Sustainability Workshop. Poor Sachin; he had to pull up the traps on Thursday. Gim told him not to get emotionally attached and that “these things happen.”
Rain cools things off. On Wednesday, the day of 111 degrees, the students and I went to the College Access Center in the Gallery on 9th and Market. It was amazing. The young women who work in the College Access Center are smart, reliable, and helped all of our students with their financial aid issues. Brandon even learned something. Cathey, Adriana, and Joceline are excellent advisors. They brainstormed different options with the students and offered points of contact at each campus. And where would a trip be to the College Access center without bubble tea!
Rain is important. This past week at the Workshop was busy and chaotic. We are so fortunate to work on very tough but satisfying projects that will help people lead a more sustainable life. We are very fortunate to share our work with many different people and love it when our students publicly speak about their projects.
Both Ann and I wrote about our time in Washington, D.C. It is a little over a week since the X Prize final announcement and only six days left for the Ecomagination voting period. Below are some little thoughts of mine for your Saturday morning paper and coffee.
September is a great month. It is the beginning of fall. Saturday and Sunday afternoons can reach a high of a cool 80 degrees. School starts and with that comes pleasure and challenge in developing a routine. All the fun summer memories of the shore, road trips, weddings, and family gatherings are sealed in the friendships that will last longer than the summer sunsets.
What do you do in a month full of renewal and promise, and yet have to balance celebrating the end of one of the many great journeys you shared with your peers and students?
This week, the students and adult members of the West Philly Hybrid X Team were in Washington D.C. for the final announcement of the X PRIZE. On Wednesday night, some members of the team attended a reception at the Fairfax Hotel. Many team members spoke about their journeys competing in the X PRIZE. From Oliver Kuttner to Azeem Hill, it was a grueling competition that allowed anyone to reach creativity in science, design a car that will help the community at hand, and meet some of the most amazing and talented people who share the same passion and goals as you do.
Michigan International Speedway seems like it was yesterday. Simon, Ann, and all the team members are on this other level of accomplishment and expectations. I think Simon knew exactly what he was doing 12 years ago when he started this program. Ann knew exactly what she was doing 20 something years ago making sure there are opportunities for high school students to work for the City's Office of Fleet Management. The X PRIZE was a perfect space to bring all of these efforts and projects to the forefront and reach that other level.
On Thursday morning, the team members made their way to the Historical Society of Washington. Edison 2 won the Mainstream Class for $5 million. Li-ion Motors won the Alternative Side by Side Class for $2.5 million, and X-Tracer won the alternative Tandem Class for $2.5 million. There were many speakers, including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The speeches were very good, but the best comment came during Peter H. Diamandis’ speech was by Simon. He was very impressed with the level of memorization and delivery of the speakers. I asked if he was joking and he said, “No, its really impressive that they can memorize their speeches.”
“Simon, there are four teleprompters on that stage. Do you not see them?”
“Ohhhhh, that is what those are. You shouldn't have told me that because now I am not as impressed and won't pay attention.”
Simon gets out of his seat and heads to the cars.
Lunch was delicious at Fuddruckers. Roger ate a 16 oz burger. Alexis, Brandon, Sekou, and Azeem were afraid to eat lunch for fear of spilling anything on them before listening to Obama’s “Change the Equation” speech. It was so funny watching them eat their lunch, because Alexis and Brandon covered themselves in napkins. Sekou took the smallest bites I have ever seen.
It was so nice to see them. It was even nice to see Michael Glover. I still think that to this day he will never do his homework in the proper ink color. Justin Clarke and Daniel Moore looked so old to me. I cannot believe they are seniors. Azeem was just the same. He has so much personality and insight. Alexis looked beautiful and still doesn’t realize how much work she did on the two cars during the Knockout Stage. On Thursday morning, Sam called her sister to wish her good luck on her first day of kindergarten. For the record, she had a strawberry pop tart for breakfast and some orange juice. I am sure Obama had the same meal that morning as well.
How do you put into perspective listening to the President of the United States talk about the accomplishments of the West Philly Hybrid X Team? It is such a big deal. It is such a big deal. Every day we will recognize, acknowledge, and live those words President Obama said to the nation by doing exactly what we are doing now. We are moving forward. Azeem still has to take his SATs, and Daniel Moore still has to do his senior project.
It’s Sunday night. It is a school night. We are getting ready for another full week of activities to keep people interested and voting for our Green Technology High School proposal for the GE Ecomagination Challenge. Students are making presentations this week at Drexel and University of Penn. On Saturday and Sunday, we will be on Main Street in Manayunk.
September is a great month. It allows time for the accomplishments of the summer to continue and hopefully shape the fall.
Whenever you are asked to present your ideas in front of an audience, it is a pretty great thing.
Last Thursday, the students of the West Philly Hybrid X Team Summer Program 2010 presented their work and findings on two very distinct but valuable projects: enhancing the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus and designing an “ideal” school.
Their presentations were wonderful.
Over the course of six weeks, students and adult team members worked towards common goals set by the group. Starting the summer program, nine students signed up and arrived the Tuesday after July 4. For reasons that even my mother and Ann cannot understand, we finished the program with six students enrolled. On the first day, one student, Alex, stayed for about two hours and never returned from break. Peter was absent for two days in a row and never called any of the adult team members. Danny was late three days. He was asked to leave.
Boundaries and habits of mind were established by the students and group members right away and were translated into a student contract. It was impressive to listen to the student debate surrounding bonuses and lateness policies. Each student would receive a $100 bonus for an exceptional presentation and $100 bonus for never being late.
Shamere, Alexis, Brandon, and Azeem were never late. All students who presented received their bonus.
By week two, the students and adult members began the projects’ development. All the students took multi-intelligence and personality tests that analyzed their strengths and weaknesses in the prior week. They wrote many personal reflections on where they see themselves and the team progressing.
Four major ideas were pinpointed after much debate about inventing new green technology, including a solar powered ankle bracelet. Troy Scott, this one is for you.
The students wanted to increase the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus, build an electric scooter, design their ideal school, and a solar charging station. It was really sad to watch Ann’s hopes and dreams fall by the wayside as the students picked the fuel efficiency and school challenge. All Ann wanted was an electric scooter and a charging station. Teenagers never listen.
Justin Carter, Alexis Bland, Brandon Ford, and Shamere Palmer wanted to work on the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus. They worked extensively with Jerry D, Dr. Keith, Jerry “Disciplinarian” Perese, and Captain Ron. It was beautiful to see them organize an assembly line for repairing and replacing the Harley. Watching them learn programming with our Drexel engineers was a poetic sight.
The majority of their presentation revolved around their learning curve working with the two cars. Brandon had a difficult task of measuring a new pulley cullet, a piece that attaches the Harley to the electric motor. Brandon used a micrometer to measure the diameter of the piece and sketched it for the machine shop at Drexel University. He operated the lathe under the guidance of Drexel’s Master Machinist and Dr. Keith and the piece fit. It worked.
What was most interesting about all of this and something that I never thought before was that Brandon didn’t receive a B+ on this assignment or even an infamous check plus. “There is no grading scale for any of this,” Hauger said after the presentation. “It either works or doesn’t. It is either 100% or a zero. Brandon couldn’t wing it and expect the Harley to work. Now the hybrid drivetrain in the Focus is working and we can continue working on the fuel efficiency.” How wonderful is this form of assessment?! It is what project based learning strives for in authentic assessment.
Like Brandon, Justin and Alexis learned a lot about what needs to be accomplished in a group project dynamic. Justin could not get the turbo out of the GT. Over the course of two hours, he removed parts and yet his hands could not fit through the tiny spaces. Alexis was able to do it. “I have to admit that there was one point that I just wanted to rip it out,” said Alexis during her presentation. “My hands are smaller and yet I still had trouble.” Justin, 6’2”, gave up the glory to a female, 5’5”.
While Alexis and Justin were in the shop, Shamere and Brandon worked on the group’s power point and researched in depth the two drive cycles, X PRIZE and EPA. It was decided amongst the group to showcase the fuel efficiency of the EVX Focus using the EPA drive cycle, because it is well known and trusted amongst car buyers. I still have a little bitterness towards the drive cycle of the X PRIZE, no lie.
The six weeks quickly expired and the group wasn’t able to accomplish getting the hybrid on the road and testing the fuel economy with the new drive cycle. Parts had to be ordered, the Harley replaced, and the students had to balance researching, learning how to program with LabView, site visits, and listening to guest speakers.
Yet all four survived. Their numbers and attendance are laudable. Even Justin Carter, who was hit by a car, only missed one day of work.
The other group really suffered so much in attendance and personnel. Peter Mong and Danny Smith both fled the group mid-way through the six week project. Danny kept showing up late, and Peter was absent for two days without calling. It was an Agatha Christi novel at best. And then there were two, Azeem and Samantha.
Azeem and Sam had a two part project: write the program plan model for their ideal school and model what an ideal project based learning challenge would look like for students attending their school. They wanted to build a green roof and test the insulation and growth rate of plants.
A key insight Azeem noted in their presentation was “being able to keep the ideals of the EVX team and find a way to transform that into a regular school day.” Both Azeem and Sam mentioned the success of the team and how they want their regular school day to follow, but they said it is extremely difficult to determine what kind of school they wanted (public, charter, magnet) so that the school is successful. They wanted to design a curriculum that enables all students to participate and flourish in a project based setting even if the students don’t like mechanics or environmental training. Sam and Azeem wanted to build a green roof because that is where their interest lies.
“We hope to develop a school and projects that would get every student involved and solve real world problems,” said Sam.
Both students talked about the team’s new entry in the Ecomagination competition sponsored by GE. This “ideal” school is an entry for this competition that looks at three different ways people create, use, and connect to energy. How can our school be as close to self-sustaining as possible? How can our building become LEED certified? How can our curriculum address humanistic concerns and possibly solve them? How can the community surrounding the school build and grow in a green economy?
Sam and Azeem have the most work left to accomplish once the school year starts. Sam graduated from the Auto Academy two years ago and is currently taking classes at CCP. Azeem is going into his senior year. One of the challenges they recognized is bringing more students on the team and working with the adult members to outline their wants and goals for their “ideal” school.
The style of the presentation was very different to the other group. Sam and Azeem read a speech while Ann controlled the power point slides. The fuel efficiency group took turns presenting the slides and used index cards full of notes. Both presentations were very well presented and proved to an audience of teacher and outside community members that there is a lot left to do with this program and this group of students.
“When we came back from the X PRIZE, the adults had the same questions as the students, ‘What’s next?,’” said Azeem. “The adults turned to us and asked us what we wanted to do and where we saw this program going. Simon mentioned the Ecomagination project, but we really talked about it together and decided on the next steps together.”
Whenever you are asked to present your ideas in front of an audience, it is a pretty great thing.
Today is the West Philadelphia High School graduation. It is a big day for our seniors who made their way through four years of public education. Over the past couple days, the seniors attended graduation practice and their senior brunch. All of these festivities went smoothly because of the exceptional behavior of the seniors and the senior class coordinators. The seniors are growing up. And I feel old.
Weekends in May and June are extremely eventful and always jammed packed.
Prom. Graduation and graduation parties. Working on hybrid cars in the shop.
(For the record: these are not listed in order of importance.)
Many of the seniors at the West Philadelphia Automotive Academy attended their senior prom on Friday night at the Hilton Hotel on City Line Ave. The young men were handsome, and the young ladies were lovely. The seniors of all the Academies (Business, Urban, and Automotive) celebrated a "Night in Hollywood." I would say the colors of the evening were red and purple. Jacques Wells, one of our mechanical members of the team, wore a bright red vest and white tux. The white tuxes are amazing. He looked so distinguished. Momo Shen was beautiful. She is on our public realtions team and wore a black sparkle A-line dress. She looked perfect. Her date, Maalik Wolfe, wore a black suit with a red shirt and black tie.
A couple of the seniors on the team didn't want to go to prom. Justin Carter said that since he was going to another prom with his girlfriend/shawty/beau that he felt like he didn't need to go to his. Sekou said that since it wasn't at a club that he didn't want to go. They both attended a fundraising event for the Schulykill Center that Friday night with Ann Cohen. (For the record: the event was not held at a club.)
Prom is very overwhelming. It could just be the worst and best thing about high school. It is an unrealistic night. I remember my junior and senior proms were just awful. I had to ask three boys to my junior prom before one said yes. That is so sad. I wouldn't even be able to tell you the last name of my senior prom date. But I always loved my dresses. The dresses were the best. Yet, they are so expensive. Now, there are all these amazing websites that allows you to donate your prom dresses or old bridesmaid dresses. The material is reused.
It was just so nice to see Momo and Jacques really happy. Ms. Hanlon, Ms. Ojeda, and I chaperoned for two hours and took tons of pictures. It was really nice to see them dressed up and happy. These next couple weeks for our seniors are going to be hard. We have seniors that are not on target to graduate. We have seniors that are giving the teachers are hard time with last minute assignments and exams. Some of them are terrified about what their summer and fall are going to look like. Others cannot wait to leave Philadelphia and start at Penn State campuses and other colleges and universities. Many of our seniors are going to summer sessions for CCP.
The next morning, Saturday, the shop was full of bodies. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done on both hybrid cars. Many of the guys were in the shop with Hauger and Co. Ann and Anita worked with students about fundraising ideas and sending out thank you notes to our sponsors and donors. I was in Baltimore, Maryland at a bridal shower for my cousin Katie. She is getting married in September. I know her china plate pattern.
Weekends in May and June are extremely busy. The weather turns warm and school is almost over. Ann, Simon, and I talk a lot about the students and how are we going to keep them focused through these next couple weeks. I think if we keep having more successful days like Saturday, we don't need to work much about student involvement. It will just happen. If our schedule during the week remains as busy, the students will have enough activities to go to keep them out of trouble. Outside School Time, Kaplan SAT, Tuesday meeting, and Saturday School happens every week.
And prom is over. The X Prize can regain its status in our lives.
Ride or Die
With the absence of Hauger, Mark, lil Mark, Keith, and Jerry P, the downstairs shops are a little lonely. There is this great space in the middle of Ron's shop. Sometimes you see Daniel Moore just walking around in circles where the GTM used to lay. It is a little sad.
Trust me though when I say that we have enough work to keep us from any nostalgia, that is an understatement. And when I say that we had enough drama in our lives over the past couple days to sell out Broadway, that is an understatement.
Yet, the cars are working. The West Philly Hybrid X Team is doing very well in Michigan. The GTM passed the speed test. Tomorrow, Simon and company will try the Ford Focus again. Ann is keeping everyone updated with emails and tweets in the middle of all her runs to the hardware store and auto shops. I would love to see Edison 2's four cars at the Speedway. They sound amazing. Four cars! What an incredible accomplishment.
The thing is, the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize is accomplishing everything they set out to do. You have engineers, mechanics, thinkers, businessmen and women coming together to talk cars. This competition sparked this need for innovative hybrid technology and powerful business plans. Many people are taking notice. This competition has done so much for this team that it doesn't seem real at times. Three students will speak on Friday at MIT about the future of sustainability energy. Ten days ago, another four students were part of a panel at Saint Joseph's University discussing the educational benefits a CTE curriculum fosters at an urban school. Boeing Wind Tunnel opened its doors for us to test the areodynamics of our cars. We truly are fortunate to work with such wonderful and accomplished companies and universities as if it is the norm now.
I am very excited to take three students, Azeem, Daniel, and Sekou to Boston with Maurice Williams. I cannot imagine the electricity on that campus. As a former rower at Saint Joseph's, the women's team was always jealous of the men's team when they went to Boston to row on the Charles River. I have never seen the Charles River. I can imagine its a beautiful river.
Keep updated with the mechanics and engineers in Michigan through out twitter account. Make sure to follow the students in Boston as the present our essential question, "How do you educate urban youth for the green economy?"
Two answers: compete in nationally prestigious competitions and implement a strong CTE curriculum.
Ride or Die
Michael Glover is a first-year-team member, and a junior at the West Philadelphia Auto Academy. Ann and I can’t figure him out.
He has a C or D, in pretty much all of his classes, including shop. Recently, Mr. Preiss caught him cutting shop not once, but twice. I guess the shop doesn’t have what the corner store does.
He falls asleep in my class about once a week. I have his mother’s cell phone number saved in my phone, and I recently sent her a picture message of her son sleeping in my class. It was probably one of the greatest picture texts I have ever sent.
When interim reports went out, Michael was in shock to see such low grades. He couldn’t understand why the majority of his grades were low D’s, and in my case an F.
“Michael, you never do your homework. You never have your books for class. Sometimes you don’t even have a pen.. The only major assignment you completed was the four stanza poem with metaphors. And you didn’t even write four stanzas. And you wrote similes!”
Yet, Michael does exceptionally well after 3:04 p.m.
He is an amazing football player. He was a great asset to the team this past fall as an offensive linebacker. He did very well in the field and worked very hard in practice. He loves football so much. He cannot wait for the football summer camp in July.
When football season was over, he joined the West Philly Hybrid X Team. He was simply looking for something to do after school. Many of the students on the team fall into this category. They enjoy automotive and working with the teachers and teammates. Most of the students don’t want to go home right after school.
Yet, Michael has a tremendous family base. His mother is very supportive and is in constant communication with his teachers. I know. I talk to her about once or twice a week. His father stops by the shop to check in on Michael. Sometimes Michael doesn’t do a great job of letting his parents know his schedule when we are in the shop late into the evening. When that happens, they come looking for him.
Michael may be one of the only students on the team who realizes all the exceptional opportunities provided for him. He said in an interview that he joined the team because he thought this could be a way to get into college. He also said that he is pretty much as famous as all the influential people the team has met, and doesn’t see the big deal with them coming to our shop.
He thrives on Simon’s lectures on aerodynamics. He loves the science behind the cars and is working very closely with a Penn student volunteer on researching ways to make the cars more aerodynamic. He is the one who found a more aerodynamic windshield that the team is looking to buy for the cars. The same day he left for the corner store during sixth period, he stayed with Edgar (the Penn engineering student) until five o’clock to research a contraption he could build to put on top of the GT to lower wind resistance.
When the gear heads on the team stumble over the name of a car part, a specific about the hybrid technology, or the effect of rolling resistance on fuel economy, Michael has the answer. Without fail. Every time it happens – which is frequently – we’re floored. This is why Ron Preiss says Michael should major in EV.
Ann and I spent an entire evening about two weeks ago talking about Michael Glover and his idiosyncrasies, and we still can’t figure him out. He is the reason why high school curriculum should be restructured, the school hours reworked, the menu in the cafeteria overhauled and football mini camps should be scheduled throughout the school year. We also need to trust in our students’ abilities some more.
Last thought: I was so frustrated with Michael one day that I called my mother and had her speak to him. Whenever a student is giving me a particular hard time, I call my mom in the middle of class and have her speak to him/her. Last year it was Rameak Taylor. This is year, it is Michael Glover. My mother is a force. She yells more than I do. She works at a middle school in Maryland. Her lunch is during my fourth period with Michael. Convenient. Even after their conversation, Michael still didn’t do his homework that night and didn’t bring his book to class.
We are stumped.
This was Ann's away message five minutes ago.
Ann's new status message - WE PASSED Technical Deliverable 2. Next 500 miles and TD3! 10:03 PM
Ride or Die.
At 4:15 p.m., I was completely brain-dead while Hauger explained the force, pull, gravity, weight, aerodynamics, wind resistance, rain drop, triangle, slippery tires, panels, cardboard, duct tape, and something else I cannot remember about the two cars. We pretty much want our cars to be as close to zero drag as possible. Right now, the Ford Focus is a 0.35. The less drag, the more fuel efficiency. I bet I was dragging at about a 12409504932948.0987656 towards the end of today.
Today was our first day back at school. Seriously, I am not complaining. I really do enjoy 150 teenagers in my life at 7:45 in the morning. I also enjoyed the additional three inches of snow interrupting first, second, and third period. Crazy enough, work was accomplished today. The sophomores and juniors finished their interim essays. I saw about 50% of my senior class during eighth period and E.B. White was gracious enough to grace the classroom with a stream-of-consciousness writing style.
The team assembled for its Tuesday meeting run by Hauger and his excessive need for aerodynamics. It is interesting to compare how the students perform during the day versus the afternoon setting. Maybe they are more active in the afternoon, because Ann provides pretzels and clementines. Maybe they are more active, because Ann describes 14 chances for them to public speak, meet fascinating people, and travel outside of West Philly during the school day. February, March, and April are very busy and important months for the team. The mechanical aspects of the cars have to be near perfection in order to participate in the next round in June. Within the next two weeks, the students will speak to Mayor Nutter, appear on a Gates Foundation video, seek tutoring from Penn engineers, and partake in the documentary filming.
It is a very challenging schedule. We wouldn't be doing any of this if we didn't want a challenging schedule. Sometimes mistakes get in our way, and we run into situations that may appear out of our control. If ever there was a time for our students to realize that nothing else matters but taking care of yourself and the education you receive, it is now. We need the students to have zero drag.
If you can, email us some of your thought on how we can make our cars more like a "raindrop." How can we make sure that we are achieving the best aerodynamics we can safely achieve in the cars?
Also, it cannot snow ever again.
Ride or Die.
How can you possibly put together the new suspension system for the Ford Focus if you are not listening to Michael Jackson? It may just be impossible.
Last week in class, the juniors watched "This Is It." It is about the practice and rehearsal of Michael Jackson's concert tour. It is a great documentary that showed the artist in many tones and moods throughout his concert rehearsal. It highlighted the exact three moods and literary genres that are so influential in today's writing. We finished our unit on the difference between Romanticism, Dark Romanticism, and Gothic. The students watched three different musical performances, "Billie Jean," "Smooth Criminal," and "Thriller." Each one represented the different literary genres. It applies. I promise.
Now while the students are working in the shop and building a new suspension system for the Focus, all you can hear over the ruckus is Diamond and Justin singing Billie Jean. Amazing.
They are doing a great job. These young gentlemen have such a great dynamic working with each other and Hauger. Hauger's son, Micah, is also here today. I think he thinks he is 16-years-old and has no problem singing along to Michael Jackson with his safety goggles falling off his ears.
The snowstorm really came at a bad time for the West Philly Hybrid X Team. It is hard to imagine how much work is left to do with the cars. Each car needs to record 500 miles before the team heads to Michigan Speedway in a month. It can be done. It just can't snow again. Ever.
It does feel good to be working at school. Towards the end of the week, I was feeling a little claustrophobic. An unexpected week off was very nice, but now there is something ticking inside all of us that makes us restless at home. We need to be back to our regular schedule. My arms are still very sore from shoveling my car out of the snow for two hours, but I am glad to be back in the shop on Saturday.
Later today a bunch of the students are going to the Temple vs. Rhode Island game. John Doughtery gave us a lot tickets to this game, in addition to the $20,000 check he brought on Tuesday. I think he could've just showed up with the check and called it a day. I hope they have a great time. Daniel is only going, because there will be girls there. My response is "no romance in high school."
Ride or Die.