High schoolers win gold for vehicle that gets 345 mpg using ethanol

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A group of Durand High School students made the trip to Texas this past weekend to compete in a national competition to see who can build the most fuel efficient vehicle.

The team ended up bringing back a gold trophy, a couple thousand dollars and bragging rights.

"This is the cockpit here," student Travis Robelia said as he walked around the car he drives.

Students have been working for months getting this rig ready to compete at the Shell Eco-Marathon competition.

"We put in about 100 hours a piece per person, so about 800 hours," Robelia said.

Some Durand High School Tech. Ed. students are no strangers to competing in technology contests. At their most recent competition they got the gold trophy for their car that got 345 miles per gallon using ethanol.

"There's a track we have to do 10 laps on and that's a total of 6 miles. They measured the fuel before the event and after," student Ted Wayne said.

The team was hoping to get 600 to 700 miles per gallon on ethanol, but after another team hit them at the competition the brakes and alignment on their car were thrown off. Still they were able to get first place.

Travis Robelia drives the car. He says there were a lot of obstacles to focus on at the event.

"It gets really intense because you're concentrating on the road, the people walking around and then they've got cracks in the road," he said.

Tech Ed. teacher Bill Rieger says his students have what he calls "farm technology mentality."

"Kids around here are around mechanical equipment and they figure out how things work really quick," Rieger said.

The students say one of the best parts about taking home the gold is making a name for a small high school on a national level.

"The fact that a little school like Durand can go against different universities with price differences, but we still were able to beat them out," Team Manager Ben Ulwelling said.

"I sat back and let the boys do all the work. They knew what to do. They had it all figured out and they did a really great job," Rieger said.

The three students who traveled to Texas for the competition all plan to go to UW-Stout next year. They say they want to get a club started at the University so they can continue to compete in more contests. Their ultimate goal is to beat Purdue University.

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