10 Things Learned on the Way to Eco-marathon

Well the vehicles are loaded and on the way to Houston. My whole team of young Henry Fords are exhausted. Today I’m going to show the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? in Physics. It has been a very busy ten days.

Some things I have learned from the past week:

10. Your diet is completely different when you are working. My consumption of donuts and fast food was at an all-time high. I really appreciated the spontaneous meals that would show up from supportive parents.

9. Misery loves company. Every night when we went home I was pretty sure no one would return the next day. It was that hard. But to my surprise the students would always show up in the morning with smiles, talking about how “awesome” it was the night before.

8. Don’t build two new cars. That is stupid. (See related: “Two Sibling Cars: One Easy, One Mischievious.”)

7. Great ideas happen when you are lying in bed. I can’t recount how many times we left in the evening with what seemed to be an unsolvable problem only to return the next day with a new fresh solution.

6. The mess WILL expand to fill the space. First it was my physics room. Then the common space outside my room. Then the cafeteria. Table by table the mess spread. The cleaning that needed to happen before students returned for classes was epic.

5.  Hoping that something will “fix itself” doesn’t work. (But it hasn’t stopped us from hoping.)

4. You find out a lot about your students. Members of your team tend to blossom when given enough time to fail. Students surprised me with how creative they were and how willing they are to learn new skills.  Their music selections and food requests often made me laugh. Who orders a sub sandwich with just cheese? (See related: “Giving Our Car a ‘Time-Out’ as Race Time Approaches.”)

3. The quality of work is inversely proportional to the time you have been working. Parts that are made at 11:00pm are not nearly as well done as parts that are made in the morning. The funny thing is that no one seems to care (or notice).

2. By the third day parents stop wondering where their son is. They know they are at school. Working. Late. Again.

1. Personal hygiene seems less important. If everyone doesn’t shower or shave, no one seems to care.


  1. Adam Loesch
    Purdue University
    April 12, 2013, 1:07 am

    I have to say I agree with the above 100% save for one – #8. “stupid” is not the word I would use to describe building two cars simultaneously. I would use words such as “ambitious” and “inspiring.” I am truly amazed by the quality and high level of detail paid to both cars by such a young team. I look forward to following your team at future races. It will always bring a smile to my face when I put on the St. Thomas Academy Experimental Vehicle Team T-shirt that one of your students graciously traded for one of my Purdue Solar Racing shirts. Thank you for being such an inspiration to this “old guy.”

  2. DAK
    April 4, 2013, 7:22 pm

    GO TOMMIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…………Good luck young men and make it a day of your choice…… :-)………Building memories as well.