March 16, 2001

San Diego High School Teams Design Cars of the Future

By Yvette tenBerge

Teams from four San Diego area high schools presented their designs for automobiles of the future before a panel of judges at San Diego State University on Tuesday in DaimlerChrysler's annual "Build Your Dream Vehicle" regional competition.

Crawford High School team being questioned by judges after presenting their vehicle the “Plasma FX4.” (From left to right): Andy Khouphongsy, Jason Robertson, Ernie Rodriguez, Dana Ung, and Andy Ngo.

The contest aims at encouraging students to utilize technology and design to invent futuristic, environmentally-friendly concept vehicles. In doing so, students are required to create three-dimensional models and drawings of their vehicles, as well as to develop marketing plans. The program provides students with the chance to apply classroom learning to real-life situations by stressing teamwork, marketing, finance, ergonomics, production planning and communication strategies.

"This [competition] offers a good challenge and good experience for students. They are able to present to professionals who will give them real-world feedback in a career that they might want to go into. One of the nice things about this contest is that you have students watching students. It becomes a competition within the school for students to better themselves," says Mark Ederer, the Technical Engineering teacher at Crawford High School who brought two teams to this year's competition. "When you have students asking how they can better themselves, powerful learning is taking place. Students need to have an appreciation of education, and this program gives them that whether they win or lose."

Poway and High Tech High School team hold up their first place winning vehicle the “Exuro.”

Student teams from Mira Mesa, Crawford, Rancho Bernardo and Poway and High Tech High Schools were selected during preliminary judging to compete in the all-day competition. Teams presented automobiles with innovative names such as the "Alpha Q," the "Plasma FX4," and the "Demon." Poway and High-Tech High Schools won first place for their vehicle the "Exuro." Their prize consisted of $3,000, a trophy and the chance to compete in May at the National Finals at DaimlerChrysler's North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Poway and High Tech High Schools also came away with second prize which consisted of $2,000 and a trophy, for the "Eros," and Mira Mesa High School placed third, taking home $1,000 and a trophy for the "Hypnotix."

Elaborate Powerpoint presentations, carefully constructed plastic models (one with working electrical headlights, turn signals and fog lights) and oral presentations recited from memory made it obvious that these students had put a great deal of time and hard work into their projects. The effort dedicated to this contest, as a group of Crawford seniors points out, comes on top of sports, after-school and weekend jobs and a full course load that includes A.P. classes. Participation is a sacrifice, to say the least, but one these students consider well worth it.

"We came back this year because we wanted to take vengeance instead of second place like we did last year. A lot of us want to be engineers, which is why I took the class last year. Our team wasn't offered [the chance to take Mr. Ederer's class] this year, so we did this entire project on our own time. This week alone we must have put in close to 50 hours," says Jason Robertson, a 17 year-old Crawford student whose extracurricular activities include football, tennis and wrestling. "A lot of kids [at our school] are skeptical because we sit there and carry around our model. They might think that it's ugly, but if we [had won], they'd all want to be our best friends."

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