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Students create fuel efficient car

ACGC seniors Jesse Albrecht, Matthew Whitcomb and Shelby Schroeder pose with their E85 car, which came in fifth in its division at the Supermileage Car Challenge. Tribune Photo by Kayla Prasek

Matthew Whitcomb, Jesse Albrecht and Shelby Schroeder, graduating seniors from Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City High School, spent part of their final semester creating an E85-fueled car.

They competed with the car at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association's annual Supermileage Car Challenge, held May 14-15 at the Brainerd International Raceway, where they placed fifth in their division.

While they didn't win, their car was one of the more noticeable cars on the racetrack, as it was painted white and completely decorated with multi-color duct tape.

"I got bored of watching the boys work on it, so I wrapped it in duct tape," Schroeder said.

To get to the point of decorating the car, Whitcomb, Albrecht and Schroeder had to put in hours of work on their car.

"We had to diagram it out first," Whitcomb said. "Then we started welding all the pieces together, and it sort of just turned out looking like it did."

On the day of the Supermileage Car Challenge, Albrecht said the car broke down four or five times before the team's luck kicked in.

"We looked bad out there at first," Whitcomb said. "Then it finally started to run."

Craig Dischinger, the instructor of the supermileage car class, said the E85 team had eight good runs before a shaky last run.

"That last run was sketchy," Albrecht said. "I was driving, and the car broke down close to the finish line, but I was still able to coast in."

Dischinger said that final run was the team's best time and best gas mileage, helping the team finish fifth out of 11 cars in the E85 division.

This was both Whitcomb and Albrecht's first year in the Supermileage Car Challenge, but it was Schroeder's second year. Schroeder said she did it again because she found it interesting last year. Whitcomb said it taught him some good lessons.

"Staying motivated is important," he said. "Don't give up, even if your car breaks down."

Dischinger said ACGC offers the supermileage car class because the students showed interest.

"We get to teach them about supermileage, fuel economy and aerodynamics," Dischinger said. "We're also able to apply the things they're learning in other classes, so there's that real world application. The kids think it's fun, but they're learning a ton."

Students also put their people skills to the test by working in groups that they wouldn't necessarily choose for themselves and learn about the science of alternative fuels versus regular fuel, Dischinger said.

ACGC's supermileage car class is completely funded by community sponsors, without whom the class wouldn't be possible, Dischinger said.