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
I’ve been thinking about the Kentucky Derby all day. I’ve watched almost every Derby since I was a kid. I love the drama. I love hearing from the veteran trainers, the upstart owners and the jockeys. This year there are 25 regular folks who chipped in and bought Noble’s Promise. They’ll be in the owner’s box watching just like the wealthy folks who generally own contenders in the Sport of Kings. It’s a great story.
Watching the Derby makes me think about the race we’re in: The Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.
There are 20 horses entered in today’s Kentucky Derby and the purse for the race is $2 million. This amount is divided among the top finishers using a formula that allots 60% to the winner, 20% to the second 10% to third, 7.5% to fourth and 2.5% for fifth. This means the horse that wins the Derby takes home $1.2 million.
The purse for the X PRIZE is bigger. $10 million is up for grabs. That amount is divided between three divisions: $5 million for Mainstream vehicles and $2.5 million for each of the two alternative divisions. We have cars in two of the three divisions. Unlike the Derby, there’s no prize for anything but the first place finisher in each Division. This is an amazing scenario for anyone who likes high stakes competition.
The West Philly Hybrid X Team has cars in two of the three divisions. That means we are competing against fewer contestants for way bigger stakes than those entered in the Kentucky Derby. But, like every horse that sets foot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs, we’ve already made the big time.
We’ve qualified and we’ll be on the track at the Michigan International Speedway. The world is watching us as we take the next step in our remarkable and ridiculous advdenture. I just can’t wait to see the morning line.
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
After two intense days in the shop at the Michigan International Speedway, both the EVX Focus and GT have passed the Technical and Safety inspections and will be participating on on-track dynamic testing this afternoon.
More to come from MIS.
We did it. It’s ridiculous, but we did it. It had to be done. We had to complete both cars and drive each of them 100 miles by March 30, or we would be eliminated from the X PRIZE. We also had to submit our third technical report, photos and video.
On April 2, we learned that our technical report was accepted and that we now move on to the Shakedown Stage of the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE. That means we’re on our way to the Michigan International Speedway on April 24 for a week of on-track technical and safety testing.
Getting to Michigan has been completely and totally ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous I don’t know where to start, but I guess the beginning of the year is as good as any. To start off the New Year, we switched the batteries in our cars. I don’t mean we took out a car battery from Sears and put in one from Pep Boys. I mean we replaced our we-love-this-lithium-iron-phosphate-battery-pack with a pack that has an entirely different chemistry from an entirely different manufacturer. This also meant we needed new battery boxes.
This too, was ridiculous. We had to replace the perfectly lovely milk crates we’d been using as battery boxes with aluminum boxes fabricated by the manufacturer. (BTW, between the milk crates and the new boxes, we built about 4 different iterations of battery boxes, although we always seemed to revert to the milk crates.) Then we had to take the boxes out to have brackets welded to them. Then we drove the boxes back to the International Battery in Allentown. We did all this running around so we would have our batteries and battery management system installed in the cars by March 1 so we would have plenty of time to complete all our technical testing. That was delusional.
You know what else was ridiculous? The weather. Philadelphia had 78.7 inches of snow this winter. We had more snow than Boston, Chicago and Anchorage. Every time we needed to be in school working on the cars, school was closed. Some snow days were really bad. On some of those days Simon, who is the most ridiculous of all, drove through the city, picked up kids and went to school. There were also the two ridiculous snow days when we waited – at home – for the storm that never came. We lost so much time from school that the Philadelphia School District cancelled the first two days of spring break. Are you kidding me? That’s what the kids were saying. The teachers were grumbling. Simon committed to a family vacation for the entirety of spring break or face divorce. I declared that I didn’t give a damn what Arlene Ackerman said, I was taking my spring break. I must now publically apologize to Dr. Ackerman and thank her for giving us the extra time to finish the cars.
School was supposed to be over for all of us on Friday March 26. Our cars would be built, we’d have already driven them and Simon would write the technical report on the weekend. We’d get our report in way before the deadline. What an insane notion. On Tuesday, our batteries were still in Allentown.
The batteries and a large flock of engineers installed the batteries and the battery management on Wednesday. That gave us a beautiful warm day to drive the cars on Thursday. We got the Focus to the lot first. It drove like a charm. Then the GT arrived and it looked great. It drove great – for about a lap. Then it started making horrific noises. We tried to diagnose the problem at the lot. We had come without a proper set of tools, so we used a lug wrench, a fence post and rebar as a hammer. They really didn’t work all that well, so we hauled the car back to school where we found that we had, apparently, ruined our fancy-ass Audi transmission.
After 2 ½ years of work, the idea of transmission problems knocking us out of the X PRIZE was staring us in the face. What an ignoble way to exit. Fortunately, we found another transmission in Texas and had it shipped overnight. It arrived on Saturday morning March 27, a day school would have been shut up tighter than a drum had it not been for the weather in February. We split our team of students and teachers with a small group of us going to the lot with the Focus to continue counting laps and recording video and the rest installing the new transmission in the GT. I even got to drive the Focus.
The new transmission was installed, the GT went on the lift and was started. NO! The same noise. The crew disassembled the transmission and put it together again. On this assembly, which was not by the book, Justin Clarke dropped a piece of equipment on the housing, denting it. Now we’re not sure if this bizarre accident was the reason, but the transmission stopped making the horror movie noises. We got it to the lot and spun off our laps.
This will be the last fact I relate about our adventure. It was about 30 degrees colder on Saturday than Thursday, and because we were so short of time, we compiled our laps on the GT without the body in place, which meant we did not have lights. Drivers, in long underwear, hats, hoodies and gloves rotated through driving assignments until we ran out of daylight. We got the final 35 miles on Sunday. We are even happier to report that Simon made it to his spring vacation and remains happily married.
We hope you will continue to follow our great and ridiculous adventure.
I wasn’t there at the very beginning. At the start of it all it was Simon Hauger, math and physics teacher at the West Philadelphia High Auto Academy, and a group of students who entered the science fair. It was 1998. The kids in Simon's after school program built an electric go-kart. They won the science fair. It was a remarkable achievement. There had never been a science fair winner from West Philadelphia High School, let alone form the Auto Academy.
The after school program grew from building science fair projects to competing in the Tour de Sol, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious alternative fuel vehicle race. The students built an electric car and became the Electric Vehicle, or EV Team. Besides building electric vehicles, they built hybrid and biodiesel vehicles, but the name stuck.
When we entered the X PRIZE, there were many suggestions about what our team name should be including X-Treme Team, X-Dream Team, and many other hokey suggestions. We kept our original team name and added the X: EVX Team. However, we thought the name wasn’t quite descriptive enough, so we gave ourselves an official name, too. We would be the West Philly Hybrid X Team. EVX would be the name of our cars. A little confusing having two names for one team, but it looks good on our logo.
Now, it looks like an extremely good idea since there is another EVX Team in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. You can check out their website and follow them in the competition, too. We hope that you take a look at all our competitors and see all the different ways teams are getting to 100 MPGe. Follow their progress and the new technologies. At the end of the summer we hope that they will all follow us across the finish line. We’ll keep you posted.
Tuesday November 10 was a regular West Philly Hybrid X Team meeting date. It was typical in many ways. I walked in the building at the end of the school day to hear the list of students who had detention being read over the loud speaker. Attendance at the meeting would be down or at best delayed.
A number of other Team members cruised through the shop on their way to credit recovery in the main building. Credit recovery does not refer to the financial crisis. It refers to going to class after school when you failed a class (or more) in the prior semester. More kids would be very late to the meeting.
Grades go in at the end of this week, so a few more kids remained upstairs working with their Spanish teacher to do the best that they can on their report cards. After all, we check report cards every quarter and poor performance effects who gets to travel with the Team. Check off a few more absentees.
We also had kids missing for illness, suspension and sibling duties. Somehow or the other we mustered a core group for the meeting. It was a good thing, because Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was visiting to research a column she wrote about us that appears in today’s paper. Here’s the link: City high-school kids best MIT in $10M car contest.
Kids spoke to Ronnie about why they joined the Team and what they like about working on the cars. We got our picture taken. We finished writing a bunch of thank you notes and signing letters to supporters. Students who will be speaking at the National Superintendents Roundtable this weekend worked on their speeches.
We had nutritionally poor drinks and snacks.
Ron Preiss and Simon had a bunch of kids in the shop working of the hybrid drive for the Focus. This, too, is typical. The drive comes in and out of the car, gets taken apart and put back together, refined and refreshed all the time.
The missing team members returned from their various assignments and it was almost time to go. We have much to do in our not so typical after school quest to win $10 million dollars. We’ll keep you posted.
Thursday November 5, 2009
I started my day at my favorite spot, Metal Stock , a football field sized warehouse filled with every shape, size and type of metal you can imagine with the added endorphin releasing agents of burnt metal, dingy lighting and whirring machinery. The first time I walked in to Metal Stock, it was a religious experience. Today was no different, just a little better. After walking through the shop floor (how many OSHA regs did I violate on my journey?) I arrived at the office to pick up my order. When the woman processing my order realized I was from West Philly High School, she stopped and looked up at me. “I saw you on the Today Show last week – you guys were amazing.” She continued to say things that made me feel really good.
I didn’t think the day could get better. But it did. I made it to the shop, and began working with the kids on the hybrid drive. Mr. DiLossi’s cousin dropped off a custom machined shaft for the drive – serendipitously just when we needed it.
We work on the X Prize cars almost every day after school, but Tuesdays are our regular meeting days. There was no school on Tuesday and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was slated to show up at 3PM so we scheduled a Team meeting. The SEPTA strike kept the writer away, but the video reporter arrived.
Just as the meeting started, the principal, and both vice principals came storming into the shop calling for me, “Hauger, Hauger”. I got a sick feeling in my stomach – I just couldn’t figure out why I was in trouble. Mrs. Cruz started saying good stuff – it took my brain a few seconds to make the adjustment and for the knots to loosen in my stomach. She explained that musician Wyclef Jean was visiting the school and would like to meet the Team and see the car. I told her that would be wonderful – the cars are right here. She wanted us to show him the “pretty” one. Of course, she meant the Hybrid Attack.
The kids were ecstatic. They pulled the Attack out and cleaned it up. Then we worked on the X Prize cars until he showed up. Since I’m not a wordsmith – I’m an engineer by training –what followed would best be described as a triple integral over a Gaussian surface. I know – that’s lame. I’m sorry. We hung out with Wyclef. He’s an off-the-charts car buff -- has a McLaren F1, a doped-out Ferrari 360 Spider, a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado and a Spiderman custom chopper built by those Orange County guys. An amazing conversation ensued. It was way cool. We shared trade secrets with his automotive engineer who’s building a super fast environmentally friendly car for Wyclef. Maybe he’ll just buy ours. We spoke to his manager – she would like to get us in a video. And then my students started spittin’ rhymes; free stylin’. For fifteen minutes they were all rapping with Wyclef. You had to see it to believe it.
I walked over to the garage door just to take it all in. Justin Carter walked over and said “Haug, this is ridiculous. This is the best day of my life. Look – Wyclef is free stylin’ with Sekou in front of our car in our shop.” I had this surreal feeling – I was fully expecting to wake up in my bed, roll over, and try to explain to my wife that I dreamt a famous rapper stopped by the shop, free styled with my students, wants to put us in his next video, I got to share our secrets with his personal car designer and the principal was being super nice to me. And oh, yeah – a newspaper video person just happened to be there to capture it all on tape. Crazy – huh?
For us religious folks, these situations are kind-of confusing. Serendipity feels more like divine intervention.
I heard a man say Jesus walks
Me, myself, I heard Jesus talks
Cause when I heard his beat
I felt Jesus voice…
It was a fast car
Every day is like the wild wild west
Some of us are bad boys
Some of us are outlawed…
In the fast car
Jump in the fast car
-- an excerpt from Wyclef Jean’s “Fast Car”
Good afternoon. Ms. R is making us stay after school to blog for the website. Some reporters from Daily News are here to talk to us about our entry in the X Prize competition. Nobody told me. If somebody told me that we were going to be videotaped, than I would have worn more makeup. Momo says that I look okay. All the seniors from the service project just stormed into Mr. Preiss' classroom. They are so crazy. They painted some of the walls of the main building with Wyclef and some of the members of the Sixers team. Aaron was mad that he didn't get that many tickets to the Sixers game. Javonne was telling us about one of those Sixers players was dunking on another. Lachell videotaped Wyclef doing chin ups.
They are crazy. I am mad at Ms. R because she only allowed certain seniors to go. She said that we have to spread the love with the seniors. He is suppose to be coming over here anyway to meet us so whatever.
Besides all of this, we are really in our senior projects. Momo and I are trying to figure what are the best ways to inform teenagers about the changes about global warming. From the summer, we figured that the internet is the best way to get out our message to others. Momo and I want to put together a podcast before we go on winter break. We are not sure what it is going to be on but we know we have to keep selling our car to anyone who is interested.
Okay, time to go. Wyclef is here.
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