Science fuels the imagination
HACIENDA HEIGHTS – While sky-high gas prices had motorists grumbling at the pump this summer, students at Los Altos High School’s Academy of Engineering had fueling problems.They couldn’t find a company willing to fill the tank of their hydrogen fuel cell-powered car with pressurized hydrogen gas.There were liability issues associated with the high-pressure gas, the students said.After extensive research, Chris Liu, 17, came up with a solution he thinks might work – using a metal hydride system to store “slush” hydrogen (a mixture of solid and liquid hydrogen) at lower pressure.A labor of love for four years, the car is now mechanically finished. Students are working on the body, which will probably be complete before the ‘s end, and waiting to receive the new fuel tank.“We are going to finish or die trying,” said Liu, a senior.Their goal is to run the car, named Infusion, at 40 mph for an hour. The car has zero emissions, and produced only “a nice glass of water” as byproduct, Liu said. Its sleek fiberglass body is so aerodynamic, “it makes a Formula One car look like a brick,” he added.When finished, the car will be the first hydrogen fuel cell car in the country built by high school students, according to adviser Bob Franz.But students in his engineering classes are used to pushing the boundaries.Five years ago his students built and flew what may have been America’s only human-powered airplane built by high schoolers. lifted off the school football field about five feet in the air before a propeller blade broke and it crashed.For the national “Build Your Dream Vehicle” competition, students created a sporty white and red Dodge Neon Rally Option and brought home first prize nationwide.The school’s robotics team this year took third in the national Botball robot competition. And their solar powered car, “Solar Shadow III,” finished second in this year’s “Solar BikeRayce” in Kansas.The engineering program has grown incredibly since it started in 1987, Franz said.There are now about 25 robotics teams at area middle schools, meant to get kids interested early on.Alums have graduated to working on the Mars Rovers and SpaceShipOne, the first private-venture vehicle to leave the earth’s atmosphere.“The early experience can really give the kids a head start. Some students have gotten jobs because they could go into (high tech companies) and converse about fuel cells,” Franz said.Funding is provided by the school district and the La Puente Valley ROP, with help from businesses like Haddick’s Auto Body, which lets the students use its shop.On a Thursday afternoon, the high school’s machine shop was abuzz with activity. Senior Aaron Mayeda tested out the team’s entry in JPL’s Annual Invention ChallengeMayeda looked pleased, but he added the team plans to create an even more convoluted machine for the final competition.“We’re saving the good stuff,” he said. their own year The Grasshopper email@example.com(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2306 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You're all set!