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Hereford High students win electric car competition in California

While plenty of Hereford High School teams have won county or state championships over the years, it took a group of engineering students to bring national recognition to the school.

Five students — four seniors and one junior — won the National Electric Car Challenge in Irvine, Ca. on Oct. 6. McKenzie Clark, Chris Paton, Joshua Perry, Nick Pindale and Maddie Westwater built the electric car last spring, using parts from several kits.

They faced five other high schools in the national competition. The rules were simple. One person must drive an electric car for one hour around a track. The car that goes the farthest in the hour wins.

"We went about 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) in an hour," said team member Nick Pindale. "We did the race very conservatively and we didn't have any break-downs. Every other car had major problems. "

The Hereford team raced against three teams from California high schools, as well as one from Virginia and a one from Clarksburg High, of Montgomery County.

The track was a former military runway made of cement.

"When we left for California, I just wanted the kids to feel good about their performance," said Michael Dodd-O, Hereford's technology education teacher, who was joined by technology teacher Brian King in California. "But they had an incredible work ethic. They were the first ones at the track and the last ones to leave. They had replaced worn parts and charged up their batteries before some of the other teams even showed up at the track. They were ready."

"We were worried, especially about the California schools, but it was all about knowing what we needed to do, and then do it," said Maddie Westwater, the team's lone junior.

The students first learned about the electric car competitions in their Engineering Design and Research class at Hereford last year. Principal Andrew Last helped them buy the materials needed to compete.

They earned their way to the national contest by finishing among the top three cars at the Washington, D.C. Electric Vehicle Grand Prix in June.

Chris Paton and McKenzie Clark then spent much of the summer modifying their 350-pound electric car. They took it for test-drives on the school's track or tennis courts.

Hereford's team made it to California thanks to sponsorship from Global EEE, Dodd-O said, which funded the team's transportation and shipping of the car.

After a black canopy was added to make the car more aerodynamic, the team nicknamed it "Vader."

The car featured a maroon bull with yellow horns and the team members wore maroon T-shirts with the words "Fear the Bull."

"What a great accomplishment for the Hereford High Bulls," said Dallas Dance, Baltimore County schools superintendent. "Not only did this competition require a strong work ethic and comprehensive knowledge of engineering, energy use and physics, but these students also showed great determination and analytical skills, something we strive for with all of our students. Congratulations to the Hereford team for a terrific achievement."

The team is considering two future competitions -one in Florida in December and another in April in Washington, D.C.

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