Arts & Entertainment

West Philly high school team builds hybrid

The team, which has received national prominence, is one of 43 teams in an international competition.

The team, which has received national prominence, is one of 43 teams in an international competition.

JESSICA HERRING TTN The West Philadelphia Hybrid X Team experimented with alternative fuel vehicle designs with low-carbon emissions.

West Philadelphia’s Hybrid X Team has been called the “multi-million dollar after-school project” by NBC’s Today Show, which chronicled the team two weeks ago.

The EVX, or Electronic Vehicle, team is a prominent high school automotive group that operates out of West Philadelphia High School. The team, currently in its 10th year, is composed of 10 to 15 students and mentors who design alternative fuel vehicles, using existing technology to build cars that have low-carbon emission and high fuel efficiency.

Simon Hauger, the team director of West Philadelphia’s EVX, said the team is always thinking ahead and “thinking of always trying to do more, [which] brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”

The Henry Ford quote personifies the team; it is a belief the team has made reality. It received national recognition when the members were invited to participate in the Progressive Automotive X Prize competition in New York to build hybrid cars.

Just 120 teams were chosen internationally to participate – EVX being one. Now, the EVX team and 42 other teams continue to the next round.

“The X Prize is a competition to spur innovation in the automotive industry by true competition,” Anna Cohen, the team’s manager, said.

The goal of the X Prize is to build two cars that can get 100 miles to the gallon and have lower than average carbon emissions. The EVX team is building a Ford Focus and a Factory Five GTM kit car. The winning team will receive $10 million.

The students building the automobiles are inner-city at-risk youth, and the team gives students a creative, after-school outlet while teaching them useful skills that can be employed in the future. The team also provides an example of how students can strive to achieve sustainability and help preserve the environment.

Gerri DiLossi, the automotive tech teacher for the team and teacher at West Philadelphia High, explains how students benefit from being part of the EVX team.

“The kids use common sense, troubleshooting … they learn how to operate equipment properly and be successful mechanics,” DiLossi said. “They are proud of what they do … like all life lessons, you learn it, and you want to put it into play.”

Sowande Gay, 17, said he loves being a member of EVX team because “being on the team, we get to do more than we usually do in class.

“I like to work with my hands and build things,” he added. “We also get [public relations] and writing experience. It helps us get a head start in the automotive industry.”

He said the team is also building marketing experience by competing.

“We have to come up with a business plan to market at least 10,000 vehicles per year,” Gay said.

Jenna Bush documented the team for the Today Show, which aired Oct. 20. Members of the team and team director Hauger drove the hybrid car on a national airing of the morning NBC program. The team has also received publicity in the New York Times and American Way magazine, which is where Bush first found out about the team.

The cars will race in different divisions in the competition between April and September of 2010. Team manager Cohen is very optimistic about the team reaching the finish line.

“We are the underdog,” Cohen said. “I want to be the Appalachian State of the car competition. I think we’ll make it to the finals.”

Despite being up against tough competition, the team remains confident in their efforts. Ron Preiss, team coordinator and teacher, summarized the EVX’s team optimistic and tenacious philosophy.
“If you can imagine it,” Preiss said, “we can do it.”

Jessica Herring can be reached at jesssica.herring@temple.edu.

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