Specialist High Skills Majors Transportation students learn from experience.
“It's too slow, wrong gear ratios, and the brakes don't work well at all,” said Nathan Pierik, a Port Colborne High School student.
The tiny white and blue car also sustained some damage to its corrugated plastic bodywork before the race even began, leaving a dent in its cowling.
But when the team started it's 196cc engine for a test run, it's front wheel from a bicycle popped off the ground.
“Yes, it does wheelies,” added Pierik, who shared driving duties with fellow Port Colborne High School student Brandon Creighton.
Despite its deficiencies, Pierik and the rest of the about 10 students from the school's Specialist High Skills Majors Transportation program who worked on the project were proud of their achievement – building a vehicle from the ground up capable of driving as far as possible on just 250 ml of gas.
“It has awesome acceleration, just a terrible (slow) top speed,” said Port High's team member Eric Fehr.
But speed didn't matter in this race.
There was no checkered flag for the first across the finish line. In this race, the last vehicle to run out of gas was the winner.
Saturday, the students brought their contraption, built using the rear end of a golf cart and the front end of a bicycle to the Seaway Mall parking lot to test their design in the District School Board of Niagara's inaugural Supermileage Competition.
Port High's vehicle was competing against similar projects built by students from St. Catharines Collegiate, Stamford Collegiate, Eastdale, and Thorold secondary schools, and South Lincoln High School.
Thorold Secondary's school's purple fiberglass car was one of the fastest on the track, easily lapping some of the slower vehicles.
It was also super efficient, claiming the first place trophy.
Second place went to St. Catharines Collegiate's go-cart based vehicle with an impressive paint scheme on its cowling.
And third place went to Eastdale's sporty red vehicle resembled a dragster, complete with a roll bar above the driver's seat.
South Lincoln High School's entry took top place for its design, which featured a bright aluminum body with a Plexiglas canopy that enclosed its driver.
Stamford Collegiate's entry incorporated a full carbon fibre cowling, provided through a sponsorship with Fort Erie-based Niagara Airbus.
“We built the whole car from scratch,” said Stamford teacher Keith McIntee. “We built it right from the ground up, design everything.”
Despite the impressive design, mechanical problems kept Stamford's vehicle from completing the race.
But for the most part, Port High teacher Mike Ferrelli said “all the cars ran well.”
“It was a good prototype year, and we're looking to expand on it next year,” said Ferrelli, who teamed up with Bob Ling, the co-owner of St. Catharines manufacturing company Tora Inc. to organize the competition.
A few of the entries didn't quite follow the rules, but Ferrelli said organizers didn't stop them from competing.
For instance, he said materials including aluminum and carbon fibre were not supposed to be used in the construction of the vehicles.
“They showed up and we said let them all run,” he said.
But next year, Ferrelli said there will be more consistency in the designs.
“It was more a chance for the kids to get out there,” he said. “We're looking to get a few more schools out there for next year.”