October 5, 2023

Full STEAM Ahead

Congratulations to the Oakwood Racing Team for placing 1st at the Horizon Educational Hydrogen Grand Prix (H2GP) Grand Prix World Final

Oakwood’s STEAM team has triumphed yet again. After consistently placing in the top three in the World Finals over the last several years (third in Germany in 2018, second in Prague in 2019, first and second in the Netherlands in 2022), Oakwood’s racing team has placed first in the H2GP World Final in Las Vegas with 1,160 laps. Now back at home, the team, including Oakwood students Angie ‘24, River ‘24, Jordan ‘24, Dash ‘24, Ezra ‘24, Brandon ’24, and Mari ‘27, led by STEAM department chair Marcos Arias, celebrate their win and reflect on an action-packed race that put the team’s determination to the test, highlighting the power of teamwork and collaboration. 

Oakwood’s team arrived at the Las Vegas convention center geared up for a win. “We spent months practicing, driving, collecting data, and preparing for every situation,” Ezra explains. Angie adds that by the time the team arrived at the World Finals, they understood every minute detail concerning their hydrogen car. “We have built this relationship with drivers like Ezra and copilots like myself where we are able collect all the data that they’re outputting from the driving so we can tell them how much energy they’re using—if it’s okay, too much, or too little. This gives us a sense of everything that they need to know to improve their driving,” she shares.

The team crushed Tuesday’s qualifier and approached Wednesday’s World Final with optimism and confidence. However, they encountered some early setbacks that necessitated quick thinking and ingenuity. The convention center’s WIFI was not functioning, leaving the team without access to their data or the capability to record lap times, forcing them to navigate the situation with limited information and guidance. Jordan explains that “our spreadsheet relies on us being able to put every single lap time in— without it, we’re doomed.” Thankfully, team members Brandon and Dash were able to step in remotely from the STEAM lab at Oakwood. “Dash and I were watching the live stream of the race just because we wanted to see how our team was doing when we got the call that they needed us.” Brandon and Dash were able to use the live stream to record lap times and feed the information into the spreadsheets for the team in Vegas. “It really helped us because those tenths of a second add up. We might think that we’ve used a certain amount of energy and we’ve actually used too much,” says Jordan. 

My favorite part is the commitment and the camaraderie.

River ‘24

Unfortunately, the lack of WIFI coincided with another issue the team faced with the car’s fuel cell. According to River, “all of our predictions for how many laps we’re going to do is dependent on the amount of energy we get from the fuel cell being added to the battery…and in the first two hours of the race, the fuel cell wasn’t working and we were off by 15 minutes from what we should have been, which means that if we had continued at that pace, we would’ve died 15 minutes before the actual race ended.” The team’s collective resourcefulness was pivotal to their eventual success.  “Jordan and I were fixing the fuel cell at the same time that Dash and Ezra started to help enter information in the spreadsheets,” River explains, adding that this joint endeavor ultimately steered them in the right direction. “I took like 45 minutes out of the race to go and rank every single stick we had in order of how much hydrogen I knew was in it,” Jordan shares. “It was a weird chain of events and in the end, It worked out perfectly.” 

So, what sets Oakwood apart from other teams? With an impressive six World Champion Medals, Oakwood’s racing team is undoubtedly a formidable force in the racing world. The team agrees that it’s all in the details. “We’ll find the littlest thing that can be changed and that most people would ignore. It might seem like a tiny change that doesn’t do anything but when you have a hundred of those, that’s substantial,” Ezra says. Angie also points out that their data collection efforts are another factor that provides the team with a competitive advantage. “What gives us an edge on the competition is that we can tell you what’s happening with our car at every point in the lap. And that’s something that other teams don’t always put their focus on.” Jordan agrees. “It’s the live data collection, analysis, and interpretation all at the same time. We’re pushing the limit of what our batteries can do because we have so much information. This also lets us know how to drive properly to finish the race and get as many laps as possible.”

Despite facing some challenges during this race, Oakwood’s racing team remains passionate and motivated as they look ahead to the next competition. River shares how his dedication to the team has not only deepened his friendships but also inspired possible career aspirations. “My favorite part is the commitment and the camaraderie. It’s also testing grounds for a possible profession in the engineering field.” The team collectively acknowledges that have become a close-knit family. Brandon ‘24 explains that “this is a great STEAM community. It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, everyone is friends and we have a lot of good laughs. These are our people” STEAM teacher Marcos Arias is proud of the team’s hard-earned victories but emphasizes the importance of not forgetting the journey that led them to this point. “Whatever you do for a living or whatever company you run, you just stay the ground and you just stay focused on what you’re doing—the rest just happens.”