“My success story is the kind of entrepreneurship story that people like to glamorize, but the reason those stories are popular is because they’re so unlikely. What we need right now aren’t idealized stories of success, but a reliable pathway for all bright young minds with the right ideas to make the most of their opportunities, and entrepreneurial education provides just that.”*1
While Richard was not specifically talking about the H2GP competition his thoughts regarding young minds, right ideas, and entrepreneurial education certainly are exemplified in it. Plainly, all of those areas were evident this past weekend at the H2GP SoCal Regional match, which was held at Edison High School, since bright young minds are what truly power every match of the H2GP competition.
During the second heat on Saturday the Waldorf team’s car somehow had a couple of wires get really hot and fuse together which shorted out their car. This knocked the team out of being able to place high enough that race to qualify for the state finals. The team pulled its car off the track, analyzed the situation, and came up with a solution that it could implement. This resulted in the team arriving early on Sunday before the third heat to conduct repairs on the car, which included using a soldering iron, a flashlight, some electrical tap, and being tenacious. Because of the team’s analytical abilities, hardware technical skill, and the car driver’s skills the car was then able to qualify in the third heat for the state finals because they completely analyzed their track performance and implemented the most efficient solutions to overcome every challenge.
However, another example of bright young minds and entrepreneurial education was from the Oakwood teams. The data strategists in these teams used Excel sheet setups that captured a lot of data whether it be milliamps of the battery, fuel cell, and lap times, and then the strategists analyzed the data and relayed to the drivers actionable data. (Many of those Excel sheets would make a lot people in the professional sphere look like Excel newbies.) With actionable data the drivers knew what the golden lap looked like, and with that information they understood how the cars needed to be controlled on the track to achieve success. Consequently, because of the highly coordinated actions of the different team members all four Oakwood teams secured their places at the state finals within the first two heats of the SoCal Regional qualifiers.
This is not to say that everything went well during the different elimination matches on Saturday and Sunday. There were a few teams that made it easy to understand why personal auto insurers charge a premium to insurer young drivers. At one point during the second heat on Saturday a car was racing down the straightway when all of a sudden it ran over the plastic track barrier and smacked into the northern wooden wall of the track. Your correspondent had to pick the car up and cradle it and various pieces of the car in his arms lest more of the vehicle break apart in order to get it “safely” back to the team it belonged to.
At other times it seemed that some drivers simply thought that the race was not an endurance race to see which cars could go the most lapse, but rather a test to see how well the plastic and wooden track barriers could hold up. After all, is it really necessary to hit the walls of the track two to four times when there are no corners around? Certainly, the walls of the track did not think so! This is to say nothing of how some drivers thought they were playing bumper cars instead of competing in a highly skilled endurance competition.
On another occasion a car might get stranded in the middle of the track and another car would come along and plow right into it even though there was ample room to avoid such a collision. It was akin to watching dysfunctional heat-seeking missiles hit the wrong target.
However, the young people who entered the competition had come up with some fairly impressive autobody art work.
The students also kept a steady supply of sugar on hand. Hydrogen powered the FCEVs, but without question sugar powered the students. It would be fair to say that the number of donuts out-numbered the Twinkies.
Even more impressive was that some teams had taken apart the fuel cell stacks, tested each fuel cell to see what its power output was, and then put the fuel cell stacks back together using only the best fuel cells. This helped those teams to achieve a better power-to-weight ratio for their fuel cell stack, hence decreasing their car’s hydrogen consumption and increasing their chances of success.
Equally notable were those teams who not only optimized their fuel cell stack but also found a way to reduce the amount of plastic used in their cars, which gave them a further edge towards attaining high lap counts.
After watching the check-in desk where teams brought their cars over to see if they fit within the competition guidelines for an hour, your correspondent began to wonder if some of the students knew more about how to make fuel cells than some fuel cell makers. Such was the level of technical expertise that some teams demonstrated.
It was also inspiring to see a H2GP veteran like Cameron Weiss coach the Waldorf team. He did an admirable job (better than some “adult” coaches did) of walking the line between providing help and diminishing a student by taking over a situation, thereby not turning a challenge into a coaching opportunity.
Similarly uplifting was seeing the efforts of all of the volunteers that helped the SoCal Regional matches be a complete success. At setup and track takedown, there were about twenty volunteers. During the matches there were several volunteers including all of the Weiss Clan that helped to recover stranded cars as well as help clean the track. The students were definitely the stars, but the volunteers provided the needed grease to help ensure a smooth event the whole weekend.
To be sure, just like previous H2GP events the SoCal Regional had its share of carnage. Wheels came off a few cars, other cars had hydrogen storage containers become disconnected, and many others lost smaller items like screws, paint, and plastic parts. It was always scary when a wheel would come off a car and the car’s driver would keep the pedal to the metal. (Apparently some driver’s had an overly developed lead finger or believed that the rules of physics were too cumbersome to worry about.) This is probably why auto insurers, wisely, would never be in favor of lowering the legal driver age limit.
In the end fourteen teams made it through the qualification rounds and they are now going to join the NorCal teams at the California State Finals in Pomona, California on 03.26.2022 to see which team is going to be selected to go onto the Horizon Educational World Grand Prix. Your correspondent will be heading back to Southern California shortly to continue the coverage of the 2021-2022 H2GP season. Below are the names of the qualified teams.
1 Oakwood Oakwood Blue
2 Oakwood Oakwood Pink
3 Los Alamitos Los Alamitos Blue
4 Oakwood Oakwood Yellow
5 Oakwood Oakwood Green
6 Los Alamitos Los Alamitos Red
7 Edison Edison 1
8 Edison Edison 3
9 Edison Edison 4
10 Waldorf Waldorf 2
11 Waldorf Waldorf 1
12 John C. Fremont Pathmakers
13 Steam Legacy Steam 2
14 John C. Fremont Pathfinders
However, one glaring absence at the H2GP SoCal Regional matches were members of the hydrogen and fuel cell industry. The young people on this past Saturday and Sunday are demonstrating that hydrogen fuel cell technology can solve some of the 21st century’s most daunting challenges, but right now they are doing it largely alone. Toyota’s admirable support of the H2GP competition and Raven SR’s upcoming support must be joined by efforts from the whole industry. After all, the young people can benefit the whole industry and therefore the entire sector has a responsibility to give young people its whole-hearted and unwavering support. The consequences of lukewarm commitment from the hydrogen and fuel cell sphere will be nothing less than catastrophic.
For more information on the H2GP competition please click here.
*1 Richard M. Schulze, “Best Buy founder: What every US college should teach their students,”CNN Perspectives, March 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/06/perspectives/best-buy-founder-college-entrepreneurship/index.html
Jesse Lyon, Contributor