7th Shell eco-marathon Americas

CNC reporting from Houston
Added On April 8, 2013

The 7th annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas kicked off Friday in downtown Houston.

The two-day event attracted more than 1,000 high school and university student competitors from Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

The highlight of the year was a project made by a senior engineering student -- an electric car powered by turning hydrogen and oxygen into water.

Students from a variety of backgrounds gathered with one common vision -- seeking feasible approaches to addressing future energy challenges.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) MARK SINGER, Project manager of Shell Eco-Marathon
"Shell Eco-marathon is designed to challenge students to see who can build the vehicle to go the farthest using the least amount of fuel. We are going to have 9 billion people on the planet in about the year of 2050 including 2 billion passenger cars, so this event is going to help us with bridging the students and meet that very difficult energy challenge."

With two classes of Prototype and UrbanConcept, around 140 cars brought by 110 teams onsite competed in groups according to six different fuel categories, including battery electric, diesel and Hydrogen.

22-year-old Eric Verhasselt, a senior engineering student from Swarthmore College, brought his innovative device, which turned out to be the highlight of the event.

Dreaming of a career in the automotive industry, Verhasselt has always thought about designing a vehicle fueled by hydrogen and electric power.

"I am here competing in the Shell Eco-marathon. It's supposed to be a difference for me from other teams is that it is just me. I am the one-man team. I had another person on the team who is supposed to be the driver, but in some circumstances, she was not able to come. The car is designed for someone that is about 5 feet tall and myself is about 6.5 feet tall. It wasn' t going to work. When I came here, the car managed to pass the inspection and was ready to go, but just didn' t have a driver. I went around and asked a lot of people and finally found a driver who was willing to help out."

Last year' s best performance of 2,188 miles per gallon was achieved by Mater Dei High School team of Evansville from Indiana. They came back again this year with four cars to defend their title.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) DAN RITTER, Advisor of Mater Dei High School
"It' s a great event in terms of the whole program and what the kids learn. Where do you get to build something like this. We have freshmen through seniors on the team who are from 15 to 18 years old. The fact that they get to start from scratching to build a car that they can complete and then go out to compete in, it' s absolutely wonderful. It' s very seldom do high school students get to interact and compete with universities and high schools, not just from North America, but teams here from Brazil, from Canada, from Mexico, from Guatemala."

In 1985, Shell launched Shell Eco-marathon in Europe. The event inspires students to find creative approaches to efficiency, encourage a spirit of collaboration and gives hands-on experience in problem-solving.

Now in its 29th edition, Shell Eco-marathon has gone global and thousands of students sign up for the challenge.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) MARK SINGER, Global project manager of Shell Eco-Marathon
"We do three different events now, one in Asia, one in Europe and one in the Americas. We have got five countries representing here the Americas. If you look at what we did in 2012, we had more than 40 countries representatives and more than 400 teams, so it' s truly is a global event."