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Super-mileage vehicle team brings home fifth-place

Friday, April 22, 2011

Northview High School's Technology Club members (from left to right) sophomore Kelsey Reid, junior Zeph Smith, freshman John Latta, junior Cam Burdette and junior Dustin Stevenson (driving) worked all school year to build the super-mileage vehicle pictured. On Monday, April 18, the students came in fifth-place during a race at Lucas Oil Raceway, Clermont, Ind. They also came home with two trophies, the Sportsmanship Award, awarded to the school that helped others the most, and the People's Choice Award. Jessica Murray Photo. [Order this photo]
Northview High School Technology Club members came home with two trophies Monday evening after racing a super-mileage vehicle they designed and built.

Junior Dustin Stevenson drove the car for the first time during the race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., April 18. Northview's team competed in the Indiana Math, Science and Technology Educational Association (IMSTEA).

The students took home the People's Choice Award and the Sportsmanship Award for helping other teams.

Some schools spent between $13,000 and $15,000 building their super-mileage vehicles, but Northview students only spent $500 and still came in fifth-place out of the 22 vehicles competing.

The team had to overcome many obstacles during the race. The vehicle made its maiden voyage when the "go" flag waved. There were no test runs before the race.

"It was really hot, but also a whole lot of fun. I felt very privileged," Stevenson said, who plans on going to college at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to be a mechanical and civil engineer. "It really helped my communication skills while we were on the track. We had to use signals, and the first run was the hardest because we didn't know our walky-talkies wouldn't work."

In addition to communication malfunctions, the students had to learn to think on their feet when the starter popped off. They temporarily repaired it using a zip tie, but later faced an electrical ground issue.

"I thought it was a cool experience. It showed how people improvise when they have to make important decisions. We had to use problem-solving," junior Cam Burdette said.

Students said the vehicle was made mostly of aluminum, bicycle parts and window fill, which is a very light and easy to replace material. The engine is a hybrid of a lawnmower and go-cart motor.

Building the vehicle took approximately 200 hours and nine students, Junior Owen Geswein, freshman John Latta, junior Nic Marietta, sophomore Kelsey Reid, junior Zeph Smith, senior Benita Wilkerson, and junior Jonathon Wise were also involved in the construction and the race.

The clubs' goal was to design and create a super-mileage vehicle that could get 1,000 miles per gallon (mpg). They achieved 52.54 percent of this goal. Their vehicle got 525.40 mpg.

"There's a lot of technology that can be used that you can't use for a larger car," Burdette said.

Before Northview students could enter the race, they submitted a letter of intent to the association, and the design proposal had to be approved. Teacher Jonathon Schlak's design processes class designed the vehicle.

"It requires them to work with one another. They all have different skills and they have to use them to problem-solve," Technology Department Chair James Latta said.

Before the race, the vehicle had to be inspected and approved by the Vincennes Hanger at the Indianapolis International Airport Sunday.

The Unlimited Class Champion was Mater Dei High School, Evansville. Goshen High School placed second followed by Sullivan High School, and fourth place went to Jasper High School.

Greenfield Central High School won Stock Class Champion, and Paoli High School received the Performance Concept Award.

Terre Haute South High School won Best Integration of Math, Science and Technology, while New Castle Vocational School received a trophy for Best Design Proposal.

Delta High School, Muncie, Ind., took the Craftsmanship Award home and the Tenacity Award went to Triton High School, Bourbon, Ind.

The best-performing first-year school was Benton Central High School, Oxford, Ind. They also won the Horizon Award.

Latta hasn't taken a group of students since 2008, but he has been involved in the program for 11 years.

The team was assisted by many community sponsors including Hobby Trucking, Lawson Welding, Pepsi Refreshment Services, Terre Haute Savings Bank, Riddell National Bank, Great Dane Trailers, Mario Brothers Mexican Cuisine, Morris Manufacturing and Stevenson Farms. The sponsors either contributed monetary donations, services and/or materials.

"We're trying to get the community more involved. We are always accepting donations and help with services. A lot of people need to work together to make it work. Funding is vital and this is all done through private donation," Latta said.

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