NFA Concept Car Smokes the Competition in Texas

So that headline might have been a little grabby. By 'smokes the competition' I meant the concept car caught briefly on fire in the third lap, and literally smoke poured out of it. No one was hurt! Mostly because their vehicle was put through vigorous safety testing prior to hitting the start line. Anyway, it will take a lot more than a little smoke to stop these kids..

The twenty-four-person team was lead by team captains Ben Siper and Alexandra Morehead (shown above). After taking first place NATIONALLY in the solar division last year, the 2012 team came home raring to go. Morehead wasted no time signing NFA up for the 2013 competition. "I don't think I had even gotten home and unpacked by then," said concept car advisor Chris Eachus.

This incessant drive is what helped propel Newburgh Free Academy to the top of the nation last year, but this year it was a defining characteristic for the team who was shocked to learn that solar division had been removed from the competition. It might have been a back-to-the-drawing board moment for some, but the team rallied instead. This year's prototype was comprised of pieces of last year's race car, the frame anyway. The NFA CVRT has two entries in the Shell Eco Marathon this year, one in the Urban Concept Division and one in the Prototype Division.

Eachus—physics teacher at the high school—has been advising the team for 13 years and teaching for 36. He is resigned to the power of hands-on learning and the kids—many of whom are off the college next year—reinforced the power of this philosophy when they shared their college plans with me.  

The majority of graduating seniors who met with me for purposes of this interview intend to pursue engineering, bio-chem or pre-med. Scientific minds at the height of their high school careers, grateful in acknowledging the opportunity that is being provided for them at Newburgh Free Academy.

Some insight on how the manufacture of a racing vehicle progresses within a school: by utilizing the talents in several departments. The physics class works on the parts and fundraises to acquire them, the welding class makes it bigger takes it to the next level. They add to it as needed, and bring it back to the physics students. Wooden models for the base are created in woodshop, and Mr Wolf's urban design class creates digital drafts that the final model ccan pull from. It is a true partnership that allows for the final 24 to make their mark on Houston.

ryan valle, the main mechanic for the team as well as the chassis welder also designed and installed the hydrolic brake system//

Driver Connor Schafer led the urban race car onto the streets of Houston where he kept his eyes on the road to avoid potholes and other vehicles. He was up against college teams from Penn. State and Purdue, among others. The races are monitored not for speed, but energy consumption. The team had to work a meter into their circuitry after arriving in Houston. The Urban Concept team was one of six that made it to the race completing 7 runs before blowing a fuse.

The Prototype was one of 24/60 vehicles that passed safety inspections and made it to the streets pushing speeds of up to 30 miles per hour with their carbon fiber framed racer. They placed 14/24 - beating RPI in the ranks by one spot.

"Everyone was used to us winning, but we are definitely improving. Since we are in a new division that was to be expected." A. Morehead

The Shell EcoMarathon was held from April 3 until April 7, 2013 in Houston, Texas.

Photos by Victor Valle

Congrats NFA on all of your incredible and progressive work!

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