Electric cars leaving Kaua‘i next week

LIHU‘E — The little cart purred quietly on the rain-slicked road at the Vidinha Stadium parking lot.

“Give ‘um da gas!” one of the students yelled as the cart rounded a corner. “Press ‘um to da floor!”

The cart continued its whirring journey around the loop, its black-helmeted driver’s face obscured by the smoke-colored visor and contrasting sharply against the neon-pink straps of the safety harness.

Five Kaua‘i High School students and their advisor, Dean Fujikawa, were out in the morning mist making final tune-ups in their entry in the 2006 Electron Marathon that will be held on O‘ahu on March 18 at Ford Island.

“It’s a new car,” Fujikawa said. “We build a new one every year. But, with all the rain and weather, we’re kind of behind. We were supposed to paint the body and have it installed.”

That task was supposed to have been completed last week, but the inclement weather kept the project from its timeline, although Anson Yasay, one of the eight students on the team, said, “I finished it yesterday (Saturday), and we’re putting it on Monday.”

The Sunday run at Vidinha Stadium was done early because Fujikawa said there’s no traffic at that time; following the test run, the students huddled over a voltmeter to check on the vehicle’s power consumption.

Time is winding down for the project, as the group members said they need to ship the vehicle to O‘ahu next week for the competition.

Earlier in the month, Bobby Saligumba and other members of the Waimea High School team had their 2006 entry on display in front of the Kaua‘i Community College Technology Building as part of the Technology Fair held in conjunction with the American Culinary Federation annual brunch.

Saligumba said their vehicle, also a new craft built from scratch, was yet to be put through its paces, since the Menehune team members felt that everything needed to be done before running the car.

In the 2005 competition, Saligumba said the Waimea High School Electric Car Racing Team finished seventh overall out of a field of 27 teams.

“This year, at last count, there were at least 33 teams,” Saligumba said.

This is a far cry from the original 11 cars that competed in the first Electron Marathon that was held in 1996 at the Hawaii Raceway Park.

In the 2005 event, the Kaua‘i High School team finished third in vehicle performance. The Red Raider vehicle completed 50 laps, and finished with an overall score of 86.24, compared with Waimea High School’s vehicle that completed 45 laps and attained a score of 74.58.

Waialua High & Intermediate School students had the top-performing vehicle, completed 54 laps and attained a score of 92.47.

The Kaua‘i High School team members include two students from last year, and they started their project from the time school started, group members said.

“We had a slow start,” said Charlie Kato, another of the student team members. “We crashed twice.”

“It’s performing right now,” Yasay said.

This year, the team is aiming to be “No. 1 in design, performance, and documentation,” the group chirped, pointing to Nick Hasegawa, whom they indicated has the documentation skills due to his involvement with the school Mock Trial team.

The Electron Marathon’s major sponsor is the Hawaiian Electric Company, and according to information on the firm’s Web site, requires the integration of academics to the construction of the electric vehicle.

Students apply math, science, automotive, electronics, and language-arts skills learned in the classroom to the project.

To complete the project, teams are required to provide documentation, which includes a record of student activities, and research, and development.

Documentation must also include a summary of business or community contacts, financial records, and a report by students representing real learning, or a videotape showing the entire scope of the project.

Additionally, one or two students representing each team will have to give five-minute oral presentations to explain problem-solving situations, integration of content areas, teamwork, and collaboration, and an overall assessment of the project.

Vehicles are judged on design, construction, and safety. Attractiveness, aerodynamic design, incorporation of safety features and the use of recycled material are all considered in the judging.

Road performance is judged by the vehicle’s ability to maintain a constant speed of 25 mph, and the distance it can travel in 60 minutes on its fully-charged batteries.

Team members for the Kaua‘i High School program include Harrison Yamamoto and Cory Arashiro as the returning members. Yasay, Aaron Adachi, Kato, Tyruss Lum, Hasegawa, and Bryson Gomes make up the rest of the team.

Waimea’s team includes Archilles Singson, Wilmark Geronimo, Leo Butac, Vernon Dela Cruz, Ryan Kunselman, Michael Bajit, and Grant Paiste.

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