<p><em>This story is part of a </em><a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy" target="_blank"><em>special series</em></a><em> that explores energy issues. For more, visit <a href="http://www.greatenergychallenge.com/" target="_blank">The Great Energy Challenge</a></em>.</p><p>Students learn as much about teamwork as they do about engineering in the Shell Eco-marathon competition to design fuel efficient vehicles.</p><p>Teams from 30 universities and 18 high schools from the United States and Canada converged on Houston for Eco-marathon Americas competition on April 16 and 17. They brought 69 homemade vehicles to the U.S. oil industry capital for a weekend of slow-speed racing (averaging 15 mph), all to show it is possible to create cars that use less fuel.</p><p>(Related: "<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/04/110418-shell-ecomarathon-houston-winners/">Canadian Students Win Shell Eco-marathon</a>")</p><p>Shante Stowell (left) and Semira Kern of Granite Falls (Washington) High School share a cheer in their pit area in the George R. Brown Convention Center while teammate Pooja Sethi smiles. Granite Falls, the first all-girls team to enter Shell's 26-year-old Eco-marathon program, won the diesel division prize last year and had high hopes for their lime green vehicle, the Iron Maiden, this year.</p><p>(Related: "<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/04/110406-shell-eco-marathon-all-girls-team/">All-Girls Team Seeks Record in High-Mileage Marathon</a>" and see "<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/04/pictures/110407-granite-falls-shell-eco-marathon/">Pictures: High School ‘ShopGirls' Design for the Prize</a>.")</p><p>But technical problems denied them their fuel economy goal of 678 miles per gallon (288 kilometers per liter), which would have broken the previous Shell Eco-marathon Americas record for diesel vehicles. Instead, they ran at 378 mpg (161 km/l) and received a special award for safety in vehicle design, construction and onsite behavior. They also were able to cheer their schoolmates, as a second team from Granite Falls won the $1,000 first prize for diesel energy vehicles with their entry in the challenging "urban concept" category for autos that meet safety criteria for driving on city streets.</p><p>At opening ceremonies Saturday, Shell executive vice president Bruce Culpepper foreshadowed the weekend's ups and downs: "We know that the path to success is littered with frustration, failure, broken parts, and sometimes even broken hearts," he said.</p>

Cheering Each Other On

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Students learn as much about teamwork as they do about engineering in the Shell Eco-marathon competition to design fuel efficient vehicles.

Teams from 30 universities and 18 high schools from the United States and Canada converged on Houston for Eco-marathon Americas competition on April 16 and 17. They brought 69 homemade vehicles to the U.S. oil industry capital for a weekend of slow-speed racing (averaging 15 mph), all to show it is possible to create cars that use less fuel.

(Related: "Canadian Students Win Shell Eco-marathon")

Shante Stowell (left) and Semira Kern of Granite Falls (Washington) High School share a cheer in their pit area in the George R. Brown Convention Center while teammate Pooja Sethi smiles. Granite Falls, the first all-girls team to enter Shell's 26-year-old Eco-marathon program, won the diesel division prize last year and had high hopes for their lime green vehicle, the Iron Maiden, this year.

(Related: "All-Girls Team Seeks Record in High-Mileage Marathon" and see "Pictures: High School ‘ShopGirls' Design for the Prize.")

But technical problems denied them their fuel economy goal of 678 miles per gallon (288 kilometers per liter), which would have broken the previous Shell Eco-marathon Americas record for diesel vehicles. Instead, they ran at 378 mpg (161 km/l) and received a special award for safety in vehicle design, construction and onsite behavior. They also were able to cheer their schoolmates, as a second team from Granite Falls won the $1,000 first prize for diesel energy vehicles with their entry in the challenging "urban concept" category for autos that meet safety criteria for driving on city streets.

At opening ceremonies Saturday, Shell executive vice president Bruce Culpepper foreshadowed the weekend's ups and downs: "We know that the path to success is littered with frustration, failure, broken parts, and sometimes even broken hearts," he said.

Photograph by Harley Soltes, National Geographic

Pictures: Racing to the Finish at Shell Eco-Marathon

At the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Houston, teamwork and imagination combine to create super high-mileage vehicles.

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