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Model Car Competition Fuels Green Scientists of Tomorrow

Chicago area students met in Burr Ridge Saturday to compete in a model fuel cell car competition.

Eighth grader Ryan Burgess came up with the teardrop design for his team’s model fuel cell car after reading an edition of Popular Science.

The aluminum car has three wheels made of mini-dvds. A tiny white balloon filled with hydrogen connects to a fuel cell, which uses electricity to power the car. Burgess and his teammates from Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn named their car “Freddy.”

“Designing it and choosing the material [was the most fun], said Burgess.  That and “figuring out how to make it run.”

Burgess and his classmates joined about 100 other 13- and 14-year-olds from 15 Chicago area schools Saturday at the Burr Ridge-based equipment manufacturer Case New Holland for a model fuel cell car competition. The event was part of the Chicago Regional Science Bowl sponsored by CNH, Argonne National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

"This event helps students see first-hand how science, creativity and collaboration work together," said Argonne’s Lou Harnisch, event coordinator.

The students, along with the guidance of teachers and parent-coaches, designed and built their own model cars from scratch – the fuel cells were provided. The teams competed at CNH for the best design and the fastest model.

"It's a fun and exciting way to introduce students to principles like momentum, gearing, torque, friction and power generation together with an understanding of renewable energy and the environment," added Harnisch.

“[The project] makes kids more aware of green technology,” said CNH Project Engineer Dan Withrow, who has been with the company 31 years. He added that the students participating in the competition will one day be teaching the older generation about green technology.

For Hadley parent-coach Shawn Lewis, the value of the project was showing the students how to work in a team and follow a scientific procedure.

“Documentation is an important part of the process,” said Lewis. Adding that failure and problem solving were other important lessons the students learned. 

“I think they did a great job,” said Hadley Eighth Grade Science Teacher Steve Wiemeler. “[The project] gives the kids perspective on what the real world is like.”

Julie Farrell April 19, 2011 at 06:49 PM
That's really awesome! It sounds like those kids had a great time and learned quite a bit in the process....congrats to them all for taking advantage of the opportunity!

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