By William Hernandez
The East Los Angeles College Future Automotive Science Technician Huskies garnered a 25th place finish in the 2014 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas event in Houston, Texas April 24-27.
Out of the 28 schools that passed inspection tests and finished the 10-lap race, the FAST Huskies’s made-from-scratch aerodynamic-carbon-fiber vehicle used a total of 221.10 gasoline miles per gallon.
More than 200 high schools, colleges and universities from across the nation and continent competed in the competition.
“There were schools from Brazil, Canada, Mexico (National Autonomous University of Mexico) there. But everyone was willing to give parts and help each other out,” driver Ryan Ross-Pok said.
“Everybody’s going through the same endeavor of trying to get their car running and diagnosing spontaneous problems. It always comes down to time management,” Ross-Pok said.
FAST Huskies students Ross-Pok and Nayeli Aguilar traveled to Houston and spent four days of rigorous mechanical training, technical inspections and getting the car running onto the track.
“It was a very meticulous process, because it got real technical as we had to put the brakes in and finish wiring the engine. It is all about the little things,” Ross-Pok said.
“It got intense because we had to finish the last 40 percent of getting the car ready to run. We used the first two days to complete it and prepare for Saturday and Sunday’s race.”
Automotive Technology Department chair and club advisor Adrian Banuelos accompanied the automotive engineering students.
“They basically built the car from scrap. They designed the metal chassis, they welded it, bent it and cut it…Machined it,” Banuelos said.
Once teams passed their technical inspections, they were allowed to take the car onto the urban setting Discovery Green track, that had an 11 feet width and 0.6 mile length per lap.
“It was stressful but the most rewarding part is hearing the engine run and being able to control and steer it,” Ross-Pok said.
“We are glad we got an outcome and brought something home because there were a lot of schools that went home with nothing. There were a lot of cars that broke down on the track, tires blowing and one car even flipped over,” Banuelos said.
For Aguilar and Ross-Pok, they experienced first-hand what it’s like to prepare and compete in a professional Formula 1 setting.
“The weather was hot, but inside the car’s temperature felt like it was 120-degrees. But it came down to mental toughness and driving strategy,” Ross-Pok said.
This was the fourth consecutive year that FAST Huskies competed in the Shell Eco-Marathon.
“Had it not been for the student’s competitiveness and willingness to finish, this would never have happened,” Banuelos said.
Among other competitors that finished were Schurr High School (18th), Citrus College (27th) and the University of California, Los Angeles who finished in 16th place.
2013 Eco-marathon winner University of Laval reclaimed their title with a final attempt of 2824 mpg.