A team of students from Sarnia’s Northern Collegiate made history again this weekend by being the only Canadian high school team to participate in the Shell Eco-marathon in Detroit.
The Shell Eco-marathon, a contest that challenges teams to build the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible, mostly draws the attention of Canadian universities, but for two years in a row Northern has submitted a team appropriately named “Team Northern”.
This year, the team placed 23rd in the prototype vehicle and internal combustion engine division beating teams from Kingston’s Queen’s University and Indiana’s Purdue University.
It was a win for the team when they passed inspection and were allowed to race – something the University of Ottawa and Ryerson University both failed to accomplish.
The team’s best official score was 440 U.S. miles per gallon (mpg), but the team was able to score 675 mpg in unofficial run, said Doug McArthur, a technology teacher at Northern and coordinator Team Northern.
“It allowed the kids to see they have more potential in their vehicle,” said McArthur.
The winners of the division, the University of Laval, scored an astronomical 2713 mpg, beating the runners up from Birmingham Young University by more than 1000 mpg.
Team Northern’s single-person vehicle, which weighs in at 73 kilograms, looks more like a torpedo than an automobile. It is made from an aluminium skeleton, covered by a moulded foam-core body, sheathed with fiberglass skin. The small engine runs on a single cylinder. The driver lies on her back to operate the vehicle attempting to reduce drag, and increase aerodynamics, which helps with fuel efficiency, said McArthur.
Team Northern would meet every Wednesday after class to work on the project and spent countless hours brainstorming and designing at home. Most of the vehicle was made by students at the high school and some more complicated parts were sent out to local industry to be manufactured.
“Anything that we couldn’t create the kids would come up with a drawing and we would send it off to a machine that we don’t have at the secondary level. For example, we had some things made with a water-jet,” McArthur said.
The city of Sarnia recognized Team Northern with this year’s Youth Go Green Award. The Go Green Awards were established in 2016 to promote environmental stewardship and recognize individuals and groups that make a positive contribution to improve the environment in the city.
“It shows that somebody did notice the extra work that the kids put out,” said McArthur.
Next year, the Shell Eco-marathon will be held in California and McArthur hopes Team Northern will be able to compete.
McArthur said: “If we get enough sponsors to get behind it we hope to get there too, but it will be a bigger financial commitment as well.”
More information and photos can be found on Team Northern’s website.