Darien High School's Phoenix vehicle, Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013

Photograph courtesy DH2S

School: Darien High School

Team: DH2S

Car Name: Phoenix (Hydrogen Prototype category; formerly DHS Fuel Cell Car)

What is special about your car? Our car's journey was incredible. Originally, our car was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The first day, we found out that our regulator was leaking, so we put some sealant on it and let it dry. The next morning, it had no leaks, but now the hoses around our fuel cell leaked. We spent three hours trying to find a supplier for steel-braided hoses. Once everything was hooked up, we took it back to the hydrogen inspector: the leaks had worsened. The bearings in the fuel cell had been stripped, and the hoses weren't connecting. We spent the rest of the day and Saturday morning trying to fix the leak, but it didn't work. With spirits low, we decided to regroup. At lunch, we came up with the idea of converting from hydrogen to battery power. We designed and rebuilt the whole car in about 5½ hours. Helped by many other teams and Eco-marathon staff members, we finally got the car running around 6pm on Saturday night. It ran for about two minutes, then died.  At dinner, we tracked down a new battery on Craigslist and picked it up the next morning. After passing all safety tests, we made it to the starting line, but the car wouldn't move. Finally, we got it running and started down the track. It died yet again, 100 feet later. We determined that the motor was drawing more amps than the battery has. In a last-ditch effort, we told our driver to press the accelerator as much as possible, without drawing too many amps. Amazingly, we did all 10 laps. Although we didn't have a qualifying time, the journey we took and the long hours we put in from start to finish really demonstrates what we learned about the car, integrity, and teamwork.

Why is fuel efficiency important to your team? We think that the environment is one of the most important things that we have. As we've seen over the past few years, one sixth of the entire world's carbon footprint comes from automotive vehicles. We believe that rather than using a nonrenewable resource such as alternative gasoline and diesel, we chose to use hydrogen, a renewable resource that we can use to power fuel cells. Our future depends on us changing our current path towards destruction, and we are the future. We need to learn from an early age how to work together as a planet on how to effectively create alternative sources of energy. Fuel efficiency is key to a stronger and better planet. Our huge carbon footprint as a world is going to haunt us in the future and the only way to change that is to become a society which values fuel efficiency. The Earth's resources aren't infinite and we need to find other ways for us to power forward without compromising our society, and we truly believe that fuel cells are the path to a new and brighter future.

Who or what inspired you on the way to the Eco-marathon? Our inspiration this trip has been our teacher, Mr. Strecker, who has been running this class for 12 years and has never had a chance to compete or attend Eco-marathon. This will be his last year teaching before he retires, he will move to South Carolina when he retires. Mr. Strecker is one of those people that never gives up hope in people. He is always there not only providing positive reassurance, but also to help wherever possible. In Houston, when we kept hitting all of the road blocks with our car, he was driving all over Houston getting what we needed to get out on the track. He was even in the paddock teaching us skills on the fly. When our head electrical engineer was tied up doing other work, he would be teaching everyone about the electronics, how they work, and even how to solder so that we could help out if needed. Mr. Strecker is someone that no one is ready to say goodbye to. He is what kept us going through the whole Eco-marathon. No matter how bummed out we got, thinking we were already out of the race, we all knew that we couldn't let Mr. Strecker down. We didn't travel all of this way to fail the safety tests. All Mr. Strecker wanted to see was the car run on the track. Not only did we do that, but we got it to do all 10 laps. Even though our time was too long, we were all so happy and when the car finally came into the pit, I think our whole team can agree, we've never seen someone be as happy as Mr. Strecker was. He is a great man and he will be thoroughly missed next year at Darien High School.

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