Inner-City High School Team Battles to Build a Supercar

FRONTLINE Presents "Fast Times at West Philly High" Tuesday, July 17, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS

Playa Vista, CA (July 09, 2012) — Can a group of inner-city high school students from one of Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods beat the odds and build the next great super-hybrid car? In FRONTLINE’s Fast Times at West Philly High, airing Tuesday, July 17, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), a team of young auto builders take on some of the world’s smartest and richest engineers to compete for the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE,. a global competition challenging teams from around the world to invent cars of the future. To win, a team must build a vehicle that is safe, reliable, street-ready and get at least 100 miles per gallon (or energy equivalent). The group from West Philly is the only high school team to ever make it this far in the prestigious and rigorous competition.

FRONTLINE follows the teens as they help build two fast and innovative vehicles during an after-school program. They are led by math and science teacher Simon Hauger, who started the program as a way to keep at-risk kids in school. “The basic assumption is that if you give students a problem to struggle with, something that’s real and relevant, it gets them thinking about what they’re passionate about and interested in.” says Hauger, who pushes his students to solve real-world problems through hands-on learning. “They take ownership over their learning. They get excited about it. They create a vision for themselves, moving forward as a learner, and that’s really what we want.”

The quest for the X PRIZE provides lessons in the power of dedication and passion and the challenges of technological innovation. “If an inner-city high school with no money can create a car that gets 80 or 100 miles per gallon, then I think we’re accomplishing something big. I think we’ll make history,” West Philly team member Samantha Wright tells FRONTLINE.

Also in this hour, the first of two FRONTLINE reports to be broadcast this year on solutions to America’s dropout epidemic. Nationwide, 7,000 students drop out every school day. In The Middle School Moment, FRONTLINE reports on new evidence that suggests the make-or-break moment for high school dropouts may actually occur in middle school. The film explores how educators are using school data to predict and prevent dropouts before they happen. The Middle School Moment is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America identify and implement solutions to address the dropout crisis.

Fast Times at West Philly High is an Electric Camel Films production for WGBH/ FRONTLINE. The director and producer is Debra Morton. The series senior producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning. The Middle School Moment is a FRONTLINE production with Left Right Docs. The producer is Mary Robertson. The writer is Frank Koughan.

Major funding for Fast Times at West Philly High and The Middle School Moment is provided by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and by Reva and David Logan. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation and by the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of the WGBH Educational Foundation.

The X PRIZE Foundation, the recognized leader in solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions, developed the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.

Promotional photography can be downloaded from the PBS pressroom.


Students from the West Philly High team push their hand-crafted, hybrid sports car onto the Michigan speedway as they compete to win a $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE. Courtesy: FRONTLINE

Press Contacts

Diane Hebert-Farrell
FRONTLINE
(617) 300-3500
diane_hebert_farrell@wgbh.org

Alan Zack
X PRIZE FOUNDATION
(310) 741-4880
alan.zack@xprize.org

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