For release: Feb. 25, 2008

Steve Karsjen, Education Programs, 515-294-5643


Workshop prepares middle school teachers
for Ames Laboratory/Iowa State University Middle School Science Bowl fuel-cell car race

AMES, Iowa – Seventeen middle school team representatives from 11 schools around Iowa converged on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory on Feb. 22 to learn about hydrogen fuel-cell technology and to build hydrogen fuel-cell model cars.

The hydrogen fuel-cell workshop is a precursor to the upcoming Ames Laboratory/Iowa State University Middle School Science Bowl competition, which will be held April 18-19 at ISU. On day one of the Science Bowl, student teams from 16 Iowa schools will spend the afternoon racing fuel-cell cars they have designed and constructed based on information and guidance their teachers received at the February workshop. On day two of the competition, teams will square off against one another in a Jeopardy-style quiz-bowl competition that tests their ability to correctly answer questions in math, chemistry, physics and other sciences.

This was the second year for the workshop, which was led by Kathleen Quinn Larson, founder of the Fuel Cell Store, the company contracted to provide the hydrogen fuel-cell cars for the DOE-sponsored event. During the workshop, the teachers received the chassis, wheels, tanks and other parts necessary to build an operating fuel-cell car.

Upon completion of the workshop, the teachers were given a fuel cell and motor to build a second car. Their student teams can use their own creativity and ingenuity to come up with the rest of the materials, such as the wheels, chassis, gears, axles, etc. for their cars. The students then will bring their completed cars to the Middle School Science Bowl in April, where they will compete against teams from other schools to determine who has the fastest car.

According to Steve Karsjen, Education Programs coordinator for Ames Laboratory, the workshop has a two-fold purpose. “First, we’d like to see the teachers use the knowledge they’ve gained to help their teams build outstanding cars for the race at our Science Bowl competition, but also we’d like to see the teachers go beyond their teams and share their knowledge about hydrogen fuel cells gained at the workshop with all students in their classrooms,” said Karsjen.

Middle schools represented at the workshop included Waverly-Shell Rock, McKinley (Cedar Rapids), Maple Valley & Anthon-Oto, Evans (Ottumwa), Pella Christian, Ogden, St. Joseph (Des Moines), Boone, LeMars, Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn and Franklin (Cedar Rapids). The U.S. Department of Energy will provide an all-expenses-paid trip for the coach and winning academic team in the Ames Lab/ISU Regional to compete in the National Middle School Science Bowl in June in Golden, Colo.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated for the DOE by Iowa State University. The Lab conducts research into various areas of national concern, including the synthesis and study of new materials, energy resources, high-speed computer design, and environmental cleanup and restoration.