Eco-marathon car shares NYC stage with Bill Clinton, George Lucas

October 19, 2009

For most people the idea of a car that gets 1,912 MPG could be something straight out of a new George Lucas movie, but for Penn State mechanical engineering students it's just another successful class project.

More than two years ago, as part of their capstone mechanical engineering design course, a team of 10 Penn State students planned and built the University's hydrogen cell vehicle to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon. "Blood, Sweat and Gears" placed first in the fuel cell category for two consecutive years.

Because of their success at the Eco-marathon, members of the engineering team and their ultra-high gas mileage car were invited by Shell to showcase their efforts at this year's World Business Forum on Oct. 6 and 7 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Laura Slingerland and Nathaniel Troupe, both second-year mechanical engineering graduate students at Penn State, and faculty adviser Leland Engel, director of the mechanical engineering capstone design projects, headed to the Big Apple to display their vehicle at the event.

The World Business Forum is an annual event that brings together top executives, business figures and leaders from around the globe to debate and discuss timely issues. The financial crisis, energy policy and health care were among this year's hot topics.

The engineering team and their hydrogen cell car were stationed on the ground floor of Radio City Music Hall.

"The students were there to explain the process that they went through to design and build their ultra-high mileage motorized vehicle," said Engel.

The event featured many presentations, including one by former U.S. President Bill Clinton titled "Embracing our Common Humanity." The forum also included more personal presentations by world figures in a question-and-answer format.

A stand-out question and answer segment featured George Lucas and was moderated by Ben Mankiewicz, co-host of "At the Movies" on the Turner Classic Movies Network. Lucas discussed his passions, technology and the future of education.

T. Boone Pickens, founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, also took part in a question and answer segment on energy dependence.

The mechanical engineering team was able to speak with many prominent industry figures, many of whom were from Shell Oil.

"One highlight for me was speaking with Peter Voser [CEO of Royal Dutch Shell] and having him put his signature on our car," said Slingerland. "He was really interested in hearing about the hard work we put into the car."

After two days of rubbing shoulders with the industry elite, the team returned to the Bernard Gordon Learning Factory at Penn State and the daily grind of finding even more ways to improve upon their vehicle.

The team will defend their first-place title in the spring at the 2010 Shell Eco-marathon in Houston, Texas.

  • Members of Penn State's Eco-marathon team took their hydrogen-powered vehicle to Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the World Business Forum on Oct. 6 and 7. Pictured are team adviser Leland Engel, left, and students Nate Troupe and Laura Slingerland.

    IMAGE: Leland Engel

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Last Updated November 18, 2010