Electrathon combines imagination, calculated design


News staff writer

March 11, 2006

The sport of Electrathon rallying is fairly new in the United States. Originating in popularity from Europe and Australia, the sport has for over a decade been a popular way for tech-talented designers and drivers to be competitive and innovative within the same activity.

The goal of Electrathon is to design and build the lightest and most efficient electric vehicle possible, then race that vehicle in a format that rewards drivers who go the farthest distance within a set time limit, using a set amount of electricity. And the distances quality-designed cars, which are limited in weight to 67 pounds, can drive can be impressive, with cars often traveling 30 miles or more off only cents worth of electricity.

The sport is gaining in popularity across the county, particularly in high school and college classrooms. Hood River Valley High School’s applied engineering class has a squad of four cars this year, designed and built by students with the help of instructor Jeff Blackman. In its fourth year at the high school, the class is now a credit-bearing elective for juniors and seniors, giving students real-life, hands-on and tangible lessons in design, electronics, physics, mathematics and engineering, as well as teamwork, collective-thinking and collaboration.

Last year the class took a big step forward in vehicle design, shifting from lightweight metal construction to composites and carbon-fiber, which provides a learning experience in itself. Creating lightweight and efficient electric-powered carbon-fiber cars with fellow classmates for high school credit might be, for the tech-minded tinkerers and mister and miss Gadgets, the best class of the year.

Last weekend, the class entered three of its four vehicles in the Mt. Hood Community College Race, which brought 20 competitive vehicles from around the northwest to the Gresham campus for the first race of the 2006 season.

“The track was very rough, with pot holes and cracks in the pavement,” Blackman commented. “Out of twenty cars only 14 survived the hour-long race.”

All three of Hood River’s three drivers, namely Kevin Dye, Kory Castro and Bryce Dalbey, finished the race. Dalbey hit a curb and took out one of his wheels, but his pit crew installed a spare and got him back into the race fast enough for an eight place finish. Castro and crew finished fourth and, leading the class of Hood River racers was Dye, who finished second overall in his personally-designed racer.

Blackman and students will host the next race in the Oregon Electrathon circuit on April 8 at the Cascade Locks Marina.

“Racing could not be possible without our sponsors,” Blackman said. “Thanks to Napa Auto Parts, E&L Auto Parts, Tallman Ladders, Fiberglass Supply, Cardinal Glass and Mt. View Bikes.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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