Obama praises car built by Workshop School students

Factory Five 818 blue sports car. Credit: Workshop School
Factory Five 818 sports car. Credit: Workshop School

Paliya Carter, 15, plans to take her driver’s license test 90 days before her 16th birthday, but she doesn’t want to take it with just any car.

She wants to drive the race car she helped build.

“I’m going to be sure to ask,” Carter, a freshman at the Workshop School, said from the White House Wednesday.

Carter and her fellow members of the school’s student-build team — EVX Team — traveled to Washington for the first ever White House Maker Faire, which showed off innovative projects from students and entrepreneurs from across the country.

The EVX Team started with a light-weight Factory Five 818 chassis and dropped in a Volkswagen engine they then modified to run on fryer oil. With their modifications the car gets about 100 miles per gallon, but retains about 200 horsepower.

Simon Hauger, principal and one of the founders of the project-based West Philadelphia school, has been leading teams in past years in building electric, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles since 1998.

“We use the projects as part of the curriculum,” Hauger said.

President Barack Obama mentioned the school specifically during his speech to invited guests.

“Compared to most other schools there are a lot of advantages they don’t have. This is a poor community,” Obama said.

But, he added, the students have a distinct advantage of learning by doing.

“So math, science, all gets incorporated into the task of actually making something, which the students tell me makes the subject matter that much more interesting,” Obama said.

Carter said she was excited that Obama mentioned their school specifically.

“And he came by and saw us and told us we did a good job and keep doing what we’re doing,” Carter said.

While she couldn’t drive the car just yet, Carter said she did get a chance to sit in the driver’s seat.

But would Hauger let Carter actually take it out for a spin, say, to take a certain test?

“The bigger question is would the School District let her do it?” he said. “Of course, I would let her do it.”

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