Decatur Students Build Car for the Future

By Eric Olson

April 25, 2014 Updated Apr 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM EDT

Decatur, In (21Alive)-They may look like glorified go karts but these odd little horseless carriages aren’t child’s play. In fact they may hold the key to survival of the planet…and all the humans who call it home.
This years ‘Introduction to Transportation’ class at Decatur’s Belmont High School is putting the finishing touches on a very special class project…a motorized vehicle that could get up to 400 miles on a gallon of gas.
“The whole frame and flooring and everything is aluminum and lightweight,” says junior Spencer Morris. “The wheels are specially they’re designed they got good bearings in them they’ll spin forever and they’re lightweight they self balance out.”
Spencer Morris, Austin Garrison, Parker Burkhalter and Troy Dahlstrom are manning the machine on this day, tweaking the steering and suspension, preparing their car for the big race this weekend down in Indy…called the Super Mileage Challenge…not a race for speed, but fuel economy. Belmont High’s entry sports a huge 144 tooth drive sprocket and a aerodynamic shell to cut wind resistance. building this car hasn’t always gone according to plan.
“The first time I rode it we didn’t have the frame supported enough and it’s aluminum so it would like bend,” says sophomore Parker Burkhalter. “The weight limit’s 150 lbs. and I’m like 160 or something like that.”
This project teaches these kids a lot about design, manufacture, working in a group…and a little something about pride, too.
“Some of these students aren’t involved in sports,” says instructor Catherine Sondgerath, “so we want to give those students who aren’t necessarily athletic something to work on as well and something to be proud of.”
These junior engineers estimate their car gets about a hundred miles a gallon right now…more, hopefully, after some modification. But no matter how they fare at the competition this weekend there’s little doubt by any measure, that Mrs. Sondgerath’s Intro to Transportation students are already winners. Eric Olson reporting, out in 21 Country.

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