Students from Cromwell-Wright High School descended on Brainerd International Raceway

May 13-14 to test cars they had built.

The students weren't going for the fastest time around the track. In fact, they weren't going for speed at all. The group was competing in the 31st annual Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association Supermileage Challenge.

Where as the race cars typically making the rounds on the racetrack typically get less than 10 miles to a gallon of gas, students from around Minnesota were testing cars they had built to see which one could get the best gas mileage in different classes.

For the first time ever, the students at Cromwell-Wright qualified three cars for the competition: two modified cars and one electric car. Other classes include stock, E-85 and experimental. There is even an urban challenge that asks students to build a "street legal" supermileage car with four wheels and room for two passengers, according to Cromwell-Wright industrial arts teacher Paul Webster. Other supermileage cars usually have just three wheels - typically bike tires - to reduce drag.

Students started with a standard Briggs & Stratton engine - similar to those used on go-karts - then design and fabricate a car that can get up to 100 mpg.

"Kids are literally forging out their own custom parts using plasma cutters to create their own front ends and modify tie rods and steering systems," Webster said. "The results can be a little rough, but this is the first year we've qualified three cars"

Webster said while the Cromwell-Wright cars got about 100 mpg, the top car at the competition reached more than 660.

Webster said even though they didn't have one of the top cars at the competition, the students are learning practical skills and critical thinking skills that will benefit them in whatever career they choose.

"This is the top of the food chain in terms of the learning progressions we do with the standards we try to follow," Webster said. "They're learning about mechanical advantage, energy transfer - how not to lose energy in the process - and they're learning about power sources and what's needed in an internal combustion engine. But the real metacognitive part is that they're learning problem solving."

Webster also said the team is underfunded compared to other teams at the competition. He is making plans to search for sponsors in the area and fundraise to help the team for next year's competition.