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Darien Students Gear Up for Design Competition

The members of Darien High School’s Fuel Cell Team have been working from early morning to late at night on their newest super-efficient car. For team business manager Matt Gentile , it’s meant balancing his commitment as an electric violinist for the orchestra with preparations for next month’s Shell Eco-Marathon in Houston.

The challenge seems like it would be daunting even for a professional auto engineer. "The goal in the competition is not speed but efficiency,” said head student engineer Ryan Dirvan. “We're trying to build the equivalent of 1,500 miles to the gallon."

The high school’s fuel cell project is now in its seventh year. The first student car was a modified go cart powered by a very simple cell. Over the years, engineers and technicians from Toyota, GMC and Mercedes-Benz have come in to talk to the students and help with the design. "The project is not so much about the outcome as it is about the learning along the way," says Leon Strecker, the team’s faculty advisor.

Team member Rahul Datta suggests the difficulty of the learning as he describes how the fuel cell works. "It takes hydrogen and strips it of its electron to create electricity, which can travel to either the batter or directly to the motor."

Strecker adds that "the only thing that comes out is dribbles of water. That's the only pollution." Fuel cells are becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in ships, forklifts and military vehicles.

The team just received a substantial check from Joseph Grasso of Grasso Construction in Norwalk to help them order the fuel cell parts from Hong Kong. Grasso says he was inspired to help the students by the website " Shop the Gold Coast ."

What do you think about the Darien High School Fuel Cell Team? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook and on Twitter .

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