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OPINION

Shaping the future of mobility

Pamela Rosen

In 2012, Christian Mata was a University of Texas at El Paso engineering student competing with the university’s team at Shell Eco-marathon Americas in Houston. The annual competition by the major oil company pushes the boundaries of vehicles’ energy efficiency. Today, Christian is an application engineer for Altair, a developer of simulation technology, and is using a tool for computer-aided technology that he first used during the Shell competition.

Increasingly, Christian’s path from competition at the annual Shell event, to applying lessons learned there at a major corporation is a familiar one. And for dozens of next-generation engineers and scientists, their journey starts today as Shell Eco-marathon Americas returns to the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit for a third year from Thursday to Sunday.

Make the Future Detroit, featuring Shell Eco-marathon Americas, is a free festival that celebrates bright energy ideas and future energy solutions. Over 1,200 students from across the Americas are participating in the four-day challenge that attracts such major employers as HPE/I, Linde, Southwest Research Institute, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Team Penske and Toyota, among others eager to seek the talent they need for their own future growth.

Since the close of the 2016 Americas competition, high school and university teams have been designing and creating vehicles that travel as far as possible on a limited energy source in one of three categories — internal combustion (gasoline, diesel, liquid fuel made from natural gas (GTL), compress natural gas (CNG), and ethanol), battery electric plug-in, or hydrogen fuel cell. The challenge demands inventive and creative problem-solving, organization and collaboration.

And a growing number of student participants are women. Among this year’s 116 teams from across the Americas, 245 participants are women, including 16 team managers. This trend is encouraging.

From the Michigan area, student teams from University of Detroit Mercy, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, International Academy East, Lawrence Technological University, Plymouth Canton Educational Park, University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and Roseville High School will participate. Besides winning top awards for best energy economy in a category, participating Americas teams will also compete for one or more special awards, including awards for safety, communications, perseverance, design, and technical innovation.

Winning teams from the UrbanConcept category will also compete in a regional final on Sunday to qualify for the Drivers’ World Championship (DWC), which is an evolution of the Shell Eco-marathon mileage challenge where teams race to be crowned the fastest energy-efficient driver. The Drivers’ World Championship Grand Final will be held at Make the Future Live in London, UK, on May 28.

Student participants — and more than 10,000 Detroit Public School students — will gain insights and exposure to state-of-the art technology.

Finally, Shell wants to help give back to the local community and have teamed up with Wins for Warriors to host a Run the Future 5K Saturday with all proceeds going directly to the charity.

Consider joining us for this weekend of free activities and other advances to help to shape the future of mobility.

Pamela Rosen is general manager

for Shell Eco-marathon Americas