Alden-Conger student engineers win state high-mileage contest

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 17, 2002

ALDEN &045; They may be from a small school, with fewer resources than many of their counterparts around the state, but their mpg made them tops in the state.

Students from the Alden-Conger School District won two awards at a recent state competition featuring high-mileage vehicles that students designed and built themselves. They won first place for an E85 vehicle that got 530 mpg and third place for a modified gasoline engine that used a 10 percent ethanol blend and got 546 mpg. E85 is the designation for a fuel blend that is 85 percent ethanol.

The competition was held in Brainerd and involved more than 30 teams with more than 70 vehicles from all over Minnesota and surrounding states. The students are given the basic engine and are responsible for designing a vehicle as well as making modifications to the engine.

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According to Alden-Conger science teacher and team advisor Dave Bosma, the focus is on hands-on learning.

&uot;They learn to problem-solve and how to apply the principles they learn in class about science and engineering,&uot; said Bosma. This year’s team got ideas for design from vehicles from previous years and from on-line research.

According to Kyle Ignaszewski, a ninth-grader and one of the team’s members, the challenge of building the vehicle and the experience of competing was worth it.

&uot;It was exciting to see it all together and see it win,&uot; Ignaszewski said. He said that there were some parts of the project that were more difficult, like finding the time before and after school and on weekends to work on the vehicle. Modifying an engine to run on E85 also presented some extra dilemmas.

&uot;The most challenging thing was getting the E85 vehicle to run consistently. We had to work on the carburetor a lot,&uot; he said.

&uot;The whole thing was a new experience for me,&uot; said Miraha Behle, a sophomore and another member of the team. &uot;But I’ve always been a ‘tomboy’, getting my hands dirty; taking things apart and putting them back together again,&uot; Behle said.

Being one of only two girls on the team made for some special challenges, she said.

&uot;We got to stand around holding stuff a lot at the competition,&uot; she said. But for the most part she and the other girl were treated as regular members of the team, she added. They took charge of designing the shell for the vehicles, she said, while the boys handled more of the engine work. Next year she hopes to get more involved with all aspects of the project.

Ignaszewski is looking forward to next year’s team, also. And he’s hoping that this year’s success will make fundraising for the project more easy. The school provides a stipend for the advisor, and the MTEA supplies the engine, but everything else has to be paid for by the students.

&uot;The program is pretty much self-supporting, raising its own funds for parts and supplies,&uot; said

Rita Usselman, district superintendent. &uot;It’s as good a hands-on learning activity as you can find.&uot;

&uot;It was a really good experience for me. You learn so much from building something from scratch,&uot; said Behle.