- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - In a 30 by 30 square foot workshop built in a large warehouse, the Mater Dei super mileage team wields blowtorches, repairs wheels and solves problems.

“When you’re making the car and laying down carbon fiber, it has to be done quickly as the resin sets,” Grace Cox, a senior and captain of the team’s prototype design, said. “We need everyone to lay it down. It’s a team effort.”

Mater Dei will enter two cars in the 2017 Shell Eco Marathon in Detroit in this month, one a prototype for efficiency and the other a more urban, realistic design.

The Shell Eco-marathon challenges teams from universities and high schools to build energy-efficient cars.

Cox, who has participated in building cars for the Eco-marathon for four years now, said her work on the team has given her a number of skills.

“At first, I wasn’t at all interested in cars,” she said. “Now I want to go into engineering.”

Cox’s goal is to see her team be invited to the Driver’s World Championship in London. The team was previously invited and placed in the championship in 2016.

“You get to meet so many unique people doing this,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get this kind of experience until they get to the university level.”

Cox said Mater Dei ranks high against college-level teams, beating records as the only high school at its level.

“We’re teaching basic skills that a lot of kids don’t have nowadays,” team adviser David Weiss said. “We teach time management, and we want everybody working together.”

The team begins work on the cars in the fall after displaying the vehicles at the West Side Nut Club’s Fall Festival, as the club is one of the team’s sponsors. Cox said the entirety of working on the cars and competition time is close to nine months.

“It’s exciting to see the kids grow,” David Weiss said. “We don’t put a huge deal on whether a kid’s a freshman or a senior when we travel. Whoever puts the effort in gets to come.”

Over the years, senior and urban vehicle captain Grant Weiss learned how to work with computers and coding in designing a speedometer for the team’s vehicles.

“It’s rewarding seeing the car succeed after working on it all year,” he said. “I hope we beat our record of 901 miles per gallon this year.”

Grant Weiss said it’s a thrill to drive a car you’ve built yourself.

“It’s definitely scary, because you really have to rely on your teammates,” he said. “But I know my team’s good, so it’ll work.”

As competitions loom the team often has new problems and challenges with the cars.

However, Grant Weiss is confident they can solve those problems.

“To do this, you have to get your hands dirty,” he said, “and dive right in.”

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Source: Evansville Courier & Press, https://bit.ly/2p2Hxr2

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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