When this writer was in high school, taking auto shop involved learning how to replace brakes, swap out clutches and tune carburetors on a TR7 with a screwdriver and a length of garden hose. The world has come a long way in the past thirty years.

These days, auto shop is more about learning how to use electronic diagnostic tools to read fault codes and remove and replace components. Some students are actually building whole cars. However, it's not traditional cars coming out of some of these shops. More and more schools are getting involved in super-mileage competitions where they design, develop and build super-light, aerodynamic alternative fuel vehicles.

These sorts of contests have traditionally been the province of university engineering teams. The recent Shell Eco-Marathon featured 28 university-affiliated teams, along with nine high school teams. The younger students are following some surprisingly advanced technology paths. Cicero-North Syracuse High School from New York built its second fuel cell-powered vehicle this year, scoring a 1,837 mile per gallon equivalent rating – beating Penn State University. If teenagers can build vehicles like this and be competitive today, it's a good sign for the future of American engineering.

[Source: Green Car Advisor]

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