Innovative design on a budget

  • 09-Jan-2009 04:46 EST
Sean Grandfield.JPG
Glenbrook South High School senior Sean Grandfield and junior Dan Uhler (in background) flank the team's vehicle, which was the only 2008 competition car with hub motors.
­­The challenge for each of 10 high school student teams was to build a single-seat electric-powered vehicle with at least one innovative feature using a $10,000 bud­get.
­Industry representatives judged the Convergence Education Foundation's 2008 Innovative Vehicle Design (IVD) competition that spotlighted student work from schools in the Great Lakes region.

More than 20 trophies were awarded to recognize both veteran and rookie teams. Belleville (Michigan) High School senior Nathan Kimm was in the driver's seat of the car that won the second place rookie team innovation trophy. "I'm imagining I'm going some­where," Kimm said as he gripped the steering wheel.

Every team took a hands-on learning excursion during the weeks and months leading up to the award ceremony during Convergence 2008 in Detroit. Monetary support for the teams came from the non-profit Convergence Education Foundation and various corporate sponsors, including Sherwin-Williams, Eaton Corp., Ford Motor Co., Tower Automotive, and Continental.

Chris Piechocki, a software engineer for Continental and the technical adviser for the William D. Ford Career Tech Center in Westland, MI, "was very impressed with [the team's] diligence to find an appropriate fuel cell and then to have the understanding of how to apply it to the vehicle."  

William D. Ford Tech Center's veteran team won six trophies, including first place wins for engineering/fabrication and innovation. Rookie team Glenbrook South High School in Illinois was the first place rookie team innovation winner.

Glenbrook South's team vehicle "has a potentiometer attached on a pivot to the rear steering system of the car. It also has a potentiometer inside the joystick, and we have a circuit board that takes the inputs from the two potentiometers and uses the signals to align the rear wheel with the joystick position, which allows the vehicle to turn left or right. The car also auto-centers on its own when you release the joystick," explained Glenbrook South High School sophomore Nolan Henrickson.

On a yearly basis, the Convergence Education Foundation surveys high school students who have participated in a foundation-sponsored project. More than 70 percent of students noted an increased awareness of science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics related careers, and more than 80 percent of the surveyed students intend to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math.

Belleville High School senior Jason Zanotti decided to get involved with the IVD project "just to do it." But since doing the project and interviewing with lawyers specializing in patent law, Zanotti plans to earn a specific degree before going on to law school. "I've decided to become an electrical engineer," said Zanotti.

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