The Hydrogen Horizon Automotive Challenge

The Automotive Challenge (H2AC) is a competitive RC car race which uses cooperative engineering and design strategies to explore hybrid hydrogen fuel cell technology. The program is designed to allow high school students to acquire the skills necessary to take a custom-built car from the conceptual and design stages through prototyping, experimentation, and manufacturing.   At the present time, there are participating schools and partners in the U.S., Czech Republic and France.  If it sounds like something you think your school, child, company, etc… might like to participate in, here are the details.

The students follow a three-month in-school or after-school syllabus, which introduces them to topics such as human impact on global climate, renewable energy technologies, and the basics of fuel cell chemistry. Reading material is supplemented by rigorous, hands-on lab experiments which engage students directly with fuel cells, other types of renewable energy technologies, and important physics, chemistry, and environmental science concepts.

carNow armed with the relevant information on hydrogen fuel cells, students begin to assemble their fuel cell RC car, cooperatively tackling engineering problems such as weight distribution, gear ratios, and handling of the car. To top off their fully-assembled car, students use Autodesk CAD software to design a 3-D rendering of their car’s body. They then test it in a wind tunnel simulation, make modifications, and finalize a design which is exported to manufacturing processes such as vacuum-forming, 3-D printing, or CNC machines.

Once the car is completed, the students shift their focus to improving the fuel efficiency of the car through design modifications and driving technique, all while gathering data to assure that their car can run for as long as possible between refueling stops.

After three months of preparation, the teams come together to show off not just their cars but 2-minute video presentations they’ve prepared on a variety of energy-related topics. Teams will be judged on their car’s design creativity, the quality of their presentation, and of course the team who can complete the most laps over the six hours of the race.

During the race, students take turns driving the car, while the rest of the team must keep track of fuel consumption, plan pit stops, and work together to replace any parts that may wear out or break over the course of the endurance race. The event concludes with an awards ceremony and post-program survey.

Sound like a great learning experience? Here is the link to find out more:

And this is the video from the recent competition in Florida:

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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