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Citrus College CAPE Owls Selected for 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Challenge

The team, a mix of automotive technology and physics students, includes, from left, Enrico Gutierrez, Patricia Barroso, Kyle Beers and Susan Vong; top row, from left, Alex Leu, Alexus Fraire and Alec Nystrom.
The team, a mix of automotive technology and physics students, includes, from left, Enrico Gutierrez, Patricia Barroso, Kyle Beers and Susan Vong; top row, from left, Alex Leu, Alexus Fraire and Alec Nystrom.

The Citrus College CAPE Owls will be one of 125 student teams from across North, Central and South America competing at the eighth annual Shell Eco-marathon Competition to determine whose student-built vehicle can travel the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

The Citrus Automotive and Physics Eco-marathon (CAPE) Owls – an interdisciplinary research group composed of seven physics and automotive technology students – was selected to compete in the global event taking place April 24-27 at the Discovery Green Park in Houston.

There, students will showcase the ultra energy-efficient vehicle they have designed, built and tested, and then drive it in an effort to prove that it is capable of meeting the growing demands of fuel-efficient transportation.

“Our talented CAPE Owl students are accomplishing very impressive feats that are providing them with invaluable hands-on learning experiences,” said Superintendent/President Geraldine M. Perri, Ph.D.  “They have the ability to use this global platform to inspire creativity and enact change.”

The Shell Eco-marathon, one of the world’s most difficult student innovation competitions, takes place annually in Europe, Asia and the Americas. The latter includes 125 teams and thousands of high school and college students from North, Central and South American countries.

This is the first time the CAPE Owls are participating.

“Each team is challenged to use their knowledge of science, engineering and technology to discover new techniques and create energy-efficient futuristic cars,” said the group’s co-adviser and physics instructor Lucia Riderer. “To be part of such a major educational project is an outstanding opportunity for our students to work together and shape the future of energy through innovation.”

The CAPE Owls consist of seven skilled students with a variety of educational backgrounds. They are Patricia Barroso, of Pomona; Kyle Beers, of Azusa; Alexus Fraire, of Covina; Enrico Gutierrez, of Azusa; Alex Leu, of Alhambra; Alec Nystrom, of West Covina; and Susan Vong, of West Covina.

They are currently putting the finishing touches on their futuristic prototype vehicle named Citrus EV8 using a heavily modified scooter engine to maximize fuel efficiency, and are working hard to make sure their vehicle breaks last year’s winning record of 3,587 miles per gallon.

“This competition enables our students to turn their vision of sustainable mobility into reality using the concepts, knowledge and techniques they’ve explored while at Citrus College,” said Mario Rubio, co-adviser and auto technology instructor. “I’m proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish so far and look forward to cheering them on.”

Student cars will run on energy sources ranging from diesel and biofuels, to solar and electricity, offering up a variety of solutions and approaches to sustainable mobility and fuel efficiency.

Over several days, teams will make as many attempts as possible to travel the farthest on the equivalent of one gallon of fuel. Cars will drive a fixed number of laps around the circuit at a set speed. Organizers will then calculate their energy efficiency and name a winner in each class and for each energy source. Off-track awards are given for other achievements including safety, teamwork, design and technical innovation.

“I am so proud of our CAPE Owl students,” said Dr. Patricia Rasmussen, president of the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees. “To be selected to participate in this international competition is quite an honor.”

The CAPE Owls are one of the three teams that comprise the college’s Research in Science and Engineering (RISE) program of 22 students created last spring. The RISE team also includes the Rocket Owls and Space Owls, which work independently on a STEM-based research project and compete in intercollegiate national and international competitions, as well as conduct monthly outreach activities to local K-8 schools. 

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