Students take London by storm

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Alden-Conger supermileage team takes 3rd in competition

ALDEN — A Cinderella story.

That’s how Alden-Conger supermileage team member Jacob Wallin described the team’s journey to taking third place at the first annual Shell Eco-Marathon Europe in London last week.

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The team’s successful fairy tale began months ago. The team qualified for the international competition at the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Detroit in April. At the Detroit event, the team took first place in the urban concept division running a diesel-fueled engine that had a gas efficiency of 525 miles per gallon. The team surpassed that record in London, running at an efficiency level of 553 mpg, which Wallin said was a huge surprise they didn’t expect.

Supermileage team advisor Dave Bosma saw it coming. In fact, he said that when some of these students were in seventh grade, he knew they could break records because they were always tinkering in the shop.

It’s a passion for the students who have to be willing to put the time in to be able to participate in events, he said.

Bosma said students sign a contract dedicating themselves to 70 hours of work on the car before the contest. If the students don’t log enough hours, they don’t go to the competition. “Some of those kids have over 200 hours on that car,” Bosma said.

The car, which weighs approximately 365 pounds, was driven by Isaac Sorensen.

“He’s small, light and compact,” Bosma explained. “The key to all these cars is keeping them light.”

The team also has to keep the vehicle fully operational. Urban concept cars are almost street legal, Bosma said. They must have many standard features on a vehicle, including headlights, windshield wipers, brake lights and turn signals.

In order to compete in London the vehicle had to pass a safety inspection before even going out on the track. That’s where items like the brakes are tested. Bosma said cars must be able to stop within 20 meters after reaching a speed of 50 kph or about 31 mph. If a car doesn’t pass the test, the team must fix the car or be disqualified.

The team then faced two qualifying runs before advancing to the finals. The original 24 teams were whittled down to eight by that time, two cars from each division — battery, hydrogen and combustible engines — plus two wild card teams. The Alden-Conger team came in second in its heat and finished third overall behind two college teams.

The team arrived home Monday to a celebratory welcome which had come together in a matter of hours. After chatting on Facebook, community members Aurora Grunzke, Dawn Beckmann and Tara Roberts organized an escort into town by the Alden and Conger fire departments and rallied a crowd together to line Broadway. Despite having only a few hours to plan, over 100 people turned out holding up signs and applauding as the school bus brought them to Hemmingsen’s Transfer.

Bosma said a few words to the crowd before encouraging the team to say a few words. Their most consistent message was one of gratitude for the support the communities have given them.

“We can’t build those cars without donations and support from everyone,” Sorensen said.

The support for the team comes naturally, according to community members.

“We are extremely proud of our school and this group of young people who have gone to London,” Alden resident Mary Reyerson said. “It’s an astounding accomplishment.”