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Students Learn Lessons Along The Way As They Design Their Own Car

High school auto shop used to be about fixing cars. Now some students are going to the next level. They’re actually building their own, as they prepare for a competition to see who can design the most fuel-efficient vehicle.



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Mechanic Shimon Atzil (right) helped students fabricate the chassis at his southwest Houston auto body shop. The car features modified bicycle parts.

The lessons have moved outside the classroom for students at The Emery/Weiner School. They're at a body shop in southwest Houston where they're building a car for the Shell Eco-Marathon.

Teams from all over North America will be in Detroit next month to see who can get the most miles from the least amount of fuel. The Emery/Weiner team wants to see what they can do with a stripped-down chassis, some bike parts, and a small gas engine.

Leading the effort is Emery/Weiner robotics teacher Brandon Kirby. He says he wasn't really sure at first if he wanted to do it.

"Because I didn't have any expertise in it," says Kirby. "And then the students were like, we'll learn as we go. So I'm very much learning at the same rate they are. In fact, they teach me stuff."

One of the students on the team is 17-year-old senior Joseph Engelhart. He says when you're building a car from scratch, some things come as a surprise.

"Children's toys have steering wheels on them," explains Engelhart. "Like little Hot Wheels cars sometimes have moving steering wheels. That's actually probably way harder to get to work right than an engine."

As part of the competition the students will have to run the vehicle on a track. They'll also have to answer lots of questions as part of a multi-point inspection.

Students from Alief's Elsik High School are also competing.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

News Anchor

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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