Darien students get hands-on with fuel cell technology
Brakes tearing off the vehicle, structural design issues and a lack of funding are only some of the obstacles a group of high school students had to overcome as they worked on developing their own fuel cell car.
The fuel cell car project is a student-driven initiative that is challenging a small group to design a fuel cell car that can travel at least 40 mph, accommodate a driver of any size and create the most efficient vehicle possible.
The project has been in the works for more than a year and, during that time, the group has been faced with numerous challenges, but has also seen a great deal of success.
Justin Lee, one of the engineers working on the car, explained how difficult it was to get the brakes working properly.
"We got our car up to 45 mph but when the driver hit the brakes, it literally tore them off of the car," Lee said. "Adjusting the brake slots was absolutely terrifying to do."
Lee said the car has moved into phase five which has transformed the car from a simple test frame to a vehicle with a re-engineered chassis, brake system and steering design. Eventually, the group hopes to be able to take their car to compete in the Shell Eco Marathon in 2012.
As much as the design of the car has sometimes slowed progress, securing funding has also been an issue.
So far, the project managed to secure a $2,500 grant from Northeast Utilities and a $10,000 grant from Best Buy.
To help the project move forward, Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich offered to send their master technician to the high school to help with the brake and steering designs on the car.
Paul Schweizer, who is charge of product management, was enthusiastic about the work the students had done.
"I want to commend all of you guys because you've done great work," Schweizer said to the students.
Schweizer then gave a presentation on the work Mercedes-Benz is doing with their vehicles in regards to fuel cell technology.
Student George Moore, who handles public relations for the project, said the opportunity to develop a fuel cell car is a great experience.
"I've always been big fan of technology and environmental design," Moore said. "I'm looking at studying environmental design when I go to college."
Moore said the other group members shared a similar interest in technology, and having the chance to learn about fuel cell cars is an exceptional opportunity; especially when outside groups like Mercedes-Benz visit the school to see what the students are doing.
"It's great to feel like we're getting a response from the outside world," Moore said. "In these economic times it's hard to secure grants but the people who are innovating are the ones reaching out."
Moore said the ultimate goal of the project is to promote fuel cell technology and to be able to show other students how technology can be incorporated into the curriculum.