This year’s Shell Eco-marathon Asia saw the first and only all-female team vying for the top prize. The PLM Alpha 2 team is from Pusat Latihan Mekanik (Mechanical Training Center) in the small country of Brunei, located on the island of Borneo in southeast Asia.  Their F1-inspired prototype vehicle runs on battery-electric-power. (Related: “In Manila, Students Race for Fuel Efficiency at Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2014.”)

“ We want to show the girl power in the race,” said Nurul Hasanah, 18, the youngest of the seven-girl team, “that we can also do what male students can do in terms of innovation, design and building a fuel-efficient vehicle.”

Hasanah maintains that PLM Alpha 2’s yellow light-weight, “most advanced electric vehicle design and technology use” has the advantage in winning the competition. (See previous Shell Eco-marathon coverage.)

Siti Sabariah, another member of the PLM Alpha 2 team, said that while it is the group’s first time in Shell* Eco-marathon, another goal they have is to inspire other countries to encourage female students to join such male-dominated events.

“There is so much potential for female engineering students like us,” Sabariah said. “We hope to see more and more females participate also in the future Eco-marathon events.”

Indeed, there are more female student participants in this year’s race than in previous contests.

university of malaya

Nur Nadia binti Ahmad Hasar drives the University of Malaya’s hydrogen-powered vehicle. Photograph by inggo Montenejo/AP Images for Shell.

Malaysia’s University of Malaya is fielding a female driver in the race, Nur Nadia binti Ahmad Hasar. Hasar, 21, a mechanical engineering student, said this is her first time entering Shell Eco-marathon.

“This is exciting and challenging for me,” she said. “I am the only female in our team and they chose me to be the driver. For me, it’s an adventure, good experience in practical engineering and I already met new friends.”

A female student driver from Technological Institute of the Philippines tests out the team car. Photo by Imelda V. Abano.

A female student driver from Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Manila tests out the PUP-Hygears team’s car. Photo by Imelda V. Abano.

TIP Mileage Proto team, from the Technological Institute of the Philippines, also has a female student as a team manager. “We can do what men can do,” said Louie Marie Pepito, 21. “This is a male-dominated event but we can also drive, build, and design a fuel-efficient vehicle.”

For several years, Shell Eco-marathon Americas has featured an all-female team from Granite Falls High School in Washington State. (See related, “All-Girls Team Seeks Record in High-Mileage Marathon,” “Granite Falls ShopGirls Break Barriers by Coasting,” and “Photo Gallery: High School ‘ShopGirls’ Design for the Prize)  Several of Granite Falls team members have gone on to study engineering at top universities across the United States.

Imelda V. Abano, founder and president of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists, is reporting from Manila.

*Shell is sponsor of National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge initiative. National Geographic maintains autonomy over content.