Earlier this year yours truly along with Horizon Educational’s Lisa Sullivan sat down with Cameron, Evan, Ian, Megan, and Sean Weiss to learn from them about how to be successful in the H2GP competition, since their years of being directly and indirectly involved in the H2GP have given them a deep well of knowledge about how to effectively race in the H2GP trials. This was demonstrated time and again during the 2021-2022 H2GP season whether it was Evan and Sean giving advice at the check-in desk to participants, Cameron coaching the Waldorf team, or Megan helping the Ase Racers from Edison High School design a truly remarkable car. By putting their wisdom out into the wild for all to benefit from this will hopefully help teams avoid mistakes in the 2022-2023 season, and ultimately race more successfully than ever before.
However, the Weiss clan also talks about how the H2GP competition has impacted them when it comes to new areas of knowledge and how that adjusted their trajectories as they entered college.
Keep on reading to learn what they had to say.
Lisa: What advice would you give to future students?
Evan: My main advice would be to keep trying. You see a lot of schools in their first year get 50 laps on a qualifying race, and you see the top schools getting 200-300 laps. For me in my first year the goal was to qualify at 100 laps and now qualifying is at 200 laps, and you see most of the schools meeting that goal. As long as you try the first time and then come back again and try, there is always a big improvement.
Lisa: Has doing this program inspired any of you in your career choice?
Cameron: Doing this program has helped me to dive more into robotics and engineering, whereas normally I was solely interested in computer science. It has also swayed into personal engineering projects.
Jesse: Cameron, has your perspective changed from participating in high school to now participating as a coach? If your perspective has changed, then do you feel that there is a greater need for the competition now vs when you were in high school?
Cameron: I would say that my perspective has not changed too much, I am still pretty eager to beat the top teams even though I am unable to race the car myself. But it is fun to see the kids kind of engineer and think outside-the-box of what they can change about the car. Just letting them do their own thing was kind of interesting.
I would say that the competition has advanced to the point where a lot of the people are getting a tremendous amount of engineering and robotics experience from it. Whereas when it was first starting out a lot of people, like myself, did not know what they were really doing. The experience that you gain from the competition is really important.
Ian: I think now as the competition evolves and as the cars evolve there is a lot more that people are learning about the car and the engineering process as well as working as a team building the car. I think participants are learning a lot of valuable skills for future careers and life-skills in general.
Jesse: Looking back over your H2GP careers, what are some of the most positive ways the competition has impacted you whether it is interest in sustainability or in choosing your college major?
Sean: Originally, I never actually got to be part of the competition as a student since I was a year ahead of the team being formed at Edison High School, but since Evan, Cameron, and Ian have been involved I have tagged along and got to see part of the process from when they built their first car to when they hacked the fuel cell stack. For myself, just paying attention to the competition as a whole I became interested in product design and prototyping, and now in work and college that is one of the things I am focusing on. Even though I was never directly involved in H2GP it inspired me to take a different route than what I thought.
Megan: When I first joined the program at Edison High School I was not part of the racing portion of the program, but then my brothers ended up sucking me into it it gave me a whole new side, a whole new perspective, of what was happening besides the classes that we were in. It gave me a whole new insight into something I had not learned before, and I thought that was really interesting.
Jesse: If you could go back in time and change one part of the H2GP competition, like learning more about fuel cells, then what would it be.
Evan: I would say spending the time to learn about the cell and hack it earlier, because we really did not get to do it until my senior year and then, of course, that was cut short by Covid-19. We never got to experience racing with a hacked fuel cell. We always were too afraid to dive into learning how it works and how to modify it. But once we actually learned about it it was such a neat thing to actually find out how it works, to actually figure out how a fuel cell on the inside is constructed, and what each component does. Then from there to modify it to make it better or more efficient. If we had done that earlier, then it would have been a completely different experience.
Megan: I would also add on that I think it would be better to have more people in the team to have more hands-on experience and actually working and building the car. I know that in a lot of teams certain people build the car and other people have their specific jobs. If more people know how to work with the car, then the entire team would know how to solve problems better.
Jesse: Are there any last words of wisdom for current and future competitors or for sponsors?
Cameron: Talk to the teams that are beating you. I know a lot of the coaches, especially Marcos from Oakwood and Mario who used to coach Steam Legacy, if you just ask them questions about what they are doing or about a fault with your car, then a lot of the time they are very open to helping you with your car. They are not a closed book, but they are a great resource when you are starting out.
Ian: My advice would be to think outside-of-the-box and to keep trying. Do not let the first race dictate how your team is going to go, keep pushing and eventually you will be at the top of the group.
Evan: Yeah, experiment with things. If you look at all of the top teams in California, all of their cars have similar modifications. But if you look at cars in Russia some of them are using two hydrogen systems. If you think about stuff that some other team is not running and you do not know it is going to work, just try it out. Who knows? You might come up with a race winning car. I know one Northern California team, Heritage, was running two hydrogen systems in the 2021-2022 season and it really worked.
Sean: Do not be afraid to try something no one has tried before, because the worse that could happen is you learn something new. It either works out really well for you or you know what you need to do in the future, and neither one of those things is a bad thing.
Keep a look out for future H2GP posts, because as we move into the next season we will be sharing one or two more posts about how to be in the H2GP fast race lane!