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Crook County HS students race to build hydrogen-fueled car

Bend's Pacific Crest Middle School also part of Toyota-sponsored project

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The future is now. Seven students in the Career in Technical Education, or CTE, program at Crook County High School are building a remote-control car fueled by hydrogen.

"Hydrogen is a really efficient and eco-friendly source of fuel for cars and stuff,” Mason Coffer, a sophomore and youngest of the group, said Wednesday. “That's why we're doing this."

Thanks to a grant from Toyota, these students in the new Robotics and Computer Science sector of the CTE program get to share this rare opportunity.

"It seems so far-fetched for a small town like this, but it's really cool," said Kelci Hale, one of two seniors in the group.

Toyota sponsored 75 middle and high schools on the West Coast to build this hydrogen fuel cell race car. Only two are located outside of California, and they're both in Central Oregon -- Crook County High School in Prineville and Pacific Crest Middle School in Bend.

"When we were talking about the opportunity, it was strictly for those California schools only," said Jason Wilkinson, general manager of Kendall Toyota in Bend. "Man, we really wanted to be a part of it. So, we worked really hard, and our Portland region supported us to help talk to the people we needed to get this up in Oregon."

Jason Mumm, professor of the Robotics and Computer Science class, added, "It's just something that you don't -- when they bring it to you, you don't pass it up. It's more for the kids. It's opportunities for them to learn and practice and take skills with them beyond high school."

At the beginning of the semester, the class received a hydrogen cell kit. Among other parts, it comes complete with four hydrogen cells, a battery and a frame.

"The idea is to use hydrogen to power your car, or to use the hydrogen here to power the battery to power the car," Mumm explained.

Of course, it did not come with any instructions, and these students are already a few steps behind, since the majority of other participating schools started the project months ago at the beginning of first semester.

The CCHS students have been working with YouTube videos to build the device.

"It's just like a step-by-step process of what we need to put on first, so we can put on other things later," Hale said.

According to Hale, the group is on Step 4 of about 22. They don't yet have a rendering of what the final product will look like, but Mumm said it will mimic the Mirai, Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.

Jason Wilkinson, the general manager of Kendall Toyota in Bend, said, "We're always looking to get into that next level and be the first people into that next technology, and taking that technology that was so massive before and making it small enough to be able to put it into an RC (radio-controlled) car."

The ultimate goal is to compete in the Horizon Grand Prix World Finals in Prague. But first, they have to perform well in the regional qualifiers in Northern California in April. In order to be race-ready, these cars must be able to complete 200 laps in two hours. A lot needs to happen before that's possible.

"It's slow, but seeing the progress that we've gotten in the past week or two has been really amazing to see how far we can get,” Coffer said.

Now it's a race against time before they can race against competition.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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