Fueled by a hybrid-powered dream, a bunch of Philly high schoolers are taking on the car world.Photography by Chris Crisman
They spill through the shop door with the little shoves and high fives and chatter of kids out of school. But they’re still in school. Only call it the school of life, where they’re part of an epic drive to reinvent the American dream and its machine.
SIMON HAUGER, physics and math teacher, strides in behind them. “Listen up,” Hauger says. He always begins this way. “Listen up. As a team …” The room begins to quiet. “As a team, we’re getting more and more attention.”
Attention is a mild word for the staggering amount of media interest these kids have attracted -- four documentaries, reporters, a possible movie script, a book. “You’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk to the media,” Hauger says. “So it’s absolutely critical, absolutely critical, that you know what our goals are. Now … what are our goals?”
The kids are into this. “To show not all African-American kids are delinquents,” Azeem Hill says. “To show high school kids can solve serious economic and environmental problems,” Jacques Wells says. “To show we can do it!” Justin Carter says.
Laughter ensues; Hauger laughs too. Then, he goes on. “Guys, this is painful. Those aren’t our primary goals. What’s the point of us being in the X Prize?”
“To build a car that gets 100 miles per gallon,” Sekou Kamara says.
To build a car that gets 100 miles per gallon. A car that caps its carbon emissions at 200 grams per mile, roughly half of what today’s cars emit. A car that can burn rubber.
Do all this and write a business plan -- the supply chain, the marketing plan, the bucks behind it -- detailing your strategy to build 10,000 cars per year by 2014, and you’ve got a shot at the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize.