So what do you do with a ten-year-old Lola Indy rolling chassis?
You turn it over to seven students from Kansas City’s DeLasalle Charter High School along with 11 mentors who worked for eight months to transform it into a full-bodied, electric powered car that gets an equivalent 300 miles per gallon.
These students were not mechanics or engineers. In fact they were “at risk” students that needed to accomplish something that would change their lives. This project brought them deep into the world of automotive engineering where they were confronted with subjects such as efficiency dynamics, aerodynamics, fabrication and design, rolling resistance, electric motors, transmission methods, automotive brake systems, etc.
Using one-on-one mentoring the project took off. Bridgestone also got involved in finding which tire from their product line to have the lowest rolling resistance. Marty Yurjevich and Jon Stuckey from Bridgestone supplied the tires and wheels and arranged for the car to be displayed last May at Indianapolis Speedway. Bridgestone later opened their Texas Proving Grounds to MINDDRIVE for testing and tuning.
Steve Rees, former principal partner of an international architectural firm, understood that the best way to engage the minds of young adults whose lives were out of focus was to involve them in real and meaningful projects in the company of adults with years of experience. This learning environment proved to be an inspirational one for these students.
The body was designed with an iterative approach developing clay models and then transferring the desired shape to full size by fabricating a wire frame structure and covering it with a heat-shrinkable clear plastic film made by 3M. The original idea of creating a fiberglass body was completed, but shelved when it was realized that the clear plastic body performed just as well and was far lighter, tipping the scales at 40 pounds.
In early August of last year the Bridgestone 7.7 mile oval, one of the largest in the world, was the track where the car was brought to determine its effectiveness and efficiency level. The car was equipped with twenty-one lithium-ion batteries that were rated at 180 amp hours. Three of the students flew out to the track and were joined by Natalie Fenaroli, a local go-kart racer for the testing and record setting.
This is an accomplishment that deserves all the notoriety that it gets. The students have greatly expanded their education with their involvement in this project and as a result have vastly expanded their life goals. They also have a much more positive outlook on what their own futures can be. The mentors have contributed greatly not only to the success of the project, but to the validation of the learning process that Steve Rees advocates.
Please visit the MINDDRIVE site and learn about this project and all the great people involved.