Team Australia Gears Up for Las Vegas World Final
As Horizon Hydrogen Grand Prix (H2GP) teams gear up to race in the Las Vegas World Final in September, we were lucky enough to catch up with ‘Faith and Furious’ from Gladstone, Queensland. Managed by Shantell Nelson, the team come from a small school of only 120 students on the outskirts of Queensland. Their small size didn’t limit their ambitions, however, and at the 2023 Australian H2GP Final they came first out of 20 teams.
With the national victory clinched – the team is now heading across the world to Las Vegas for a chance to compete against the best teams globally. Ahead of their big trip, we spoke with Shantell Nelson and her student, Caleb.
So, Shantell and Caleb, what type of work have you been doing to improve your hydrogen-powered car ahead of the Las Vegas World Final?
Caleb: We’ve been working on solving the problems we had in the national race. In the Australia Final we had some problems with the performance of the car, we started overheating and we actually couldn’t finish the whole race. So, we’ve made some modifications to the car, we’ve replaced the motor, replaced the batteries – these are the two major changes. We also did a whole 6-hour race ourselves to test these new modifications. That went really well, we completed the entire six hours without any issues.
And how do you feel about traveling across the world to Las Vegas to compete internationally?
Shantell: We’re still pinching ourselves. We’re still trying to figure out “how did this actually happen?”. Since the national race it’s been “Go Go Go”. We’re working hard to get everything in place, travelling so far, there’s quite a bit that needs to get into place, so we’ve constantly been working, but every now and then you stop and wonder ‘OK, so this is really happening? We’re really going to Las Vegas to race against the best teams from around the world?’ I think that’s where I’m at, at this stage – it’s a big deal!
It's so important for us partly due to the fact we come from such a small school. We’re a school of only about 120 students from kindergarten to year 12. I think years 7-12, the age in which they can compete in H2GP, it’s about 30 students, so we’re a very small school, and it really means a lot to us going to Las Vegas.
Caleb: Las Vegas will be the biggest city I’ve ever been to – so it will be pretty amazing.
That’s great to hear. What else have you been doing to prepare for the Las Vegas World Final?
Shantell: The kids are hard at work now preparing for the final. The team comes in every day at lunchtime to work on the car, work on the presentation they will give to the judges and everything else. And on a Friday afternoon after school, they have some time from roughly 3pm until about 5pm. So we’ve got an H2GP workshop where the students get a chance to improve their car and practice their renewable energy engineering skills in preparation for the final.
We actually had a professional engineer come in today, looking over our presentation, looking over the technical reports and everything else, and from next week onwards we’ll have a two-hour practice race every Friday, just to iron out any of the wrinkles before we make the trip to Vegas.
On top of that, before we make the trip, we’re planning to do 2 more six-hour practice races. The kids love the program so much that it's even taking up part of their weekends – it just shows the dedication and enthusiasm for science and engineering subjects this program has instilled in them.
And finally, what are you most looking forward to about Las Vegas?
Shantell: For me as a teacher, I would love to be able to see the children learn from the teams who’ve been in the competition for quite some time. To sort of compete against these more experienced H2GP teams, who’ve been in the game for quite a bit longer than we’ve been in it. I think we’ve got a lot to learn from them. For us to realize that we actually can compete with the rest, we’ve made it this far, that would be a great feeling. So I’d be very interested to see what the others are doing, how they do it, how they communicate among themselves at the race, how their teams are set up – this will allow us to improve our own team and take our skills to the next level.
Shantell Nelson added:
As the teacher and team leader of Faith and Furious, I am thrilled to be taking part in the Horizon Education program. I am delighted with the progress that these students have made over the past few months. I have seen the students grow and learn so much through participating in the program, and they are still learning daily. Their passion and commitment make me extremely excited about the World Finals as well as where these students will be in the future of Australia’s Hydrogen powered vehicles. Faith and Furious are a team no matter the outcome!