When Jake Moghtader and Kelvin Noronha woke up on the morning of Wednesday, June 16, they still had no idea that their “dashboard of the future”—designed for the DASH+ student competition to conceptualize an eco-friendly dashboard—had been awarded the Grand Prize in the national contest. It was not until mid-morning, as they stood on the platform at the KEYT television studio, that the students were informed of their win: an honor that will send them to Detroit for three days in July to present their concept to innovators in the automotive industry.
For these students, the win serves as a push to continue testing the limits of environmentally conscious engineering. For Santa Barbara as a whole, it marks the success of local schools in inspiring students to pursue real world applications that transform our community. As Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen told the winners, “Our schools that allow young people to have dream or vision … lifts us all.”
Endowed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the DASH+ contest was an offshoot of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize, a program designed to encourage innovation in fuel-efficient vehicles. DASH+ challenged students to conceptualize a new crop of dashboards with the technology to promote fuel-efficient driving. High school students all over the country entered the contest by submitting three-minute video representations of original designs. An expert panel of judges selected the top three, and opened the online voting process to social networks all over the country.
As of Wednesday morning, Moghtader, Noronha, and their teammate Nikhil Shinday (who is traveling abroad and could not be present for the announcement) have been named the lucky champions of the entire process. During their stay in Detroit, the boys will receive feedback, meet competing teams, visit the automotive design program at the local College of Creative Studies, and learn about careers in their field of interest. According to Mitch Aiken, director of education at X Prize Foundation, this latter opportunity is crucial: When students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are educated on the future of their skills, it supports our attempt as a nation to “bring our status [in STEM skills] way up.”
If the winning team’s design is any indication, it will be a short ascent to the top. Their “dashboard of the future,” named El Diseño Verde (EDV), alerts the driver to his or her ecological footprint with a system of “GreenPoints.” Points are awarded if the current drive surpasses the fuel efficiency of previous drives made on similar roads, and are stored in the dashboard for redemption at grocery stores, boutiques, amusement parks, and restaurants. EDV also features a Friends List to provide drivers with a list of carpooling opportunities. In addition to these major features, EDV provides cameras for a panoramic view surrounding the car, details about traffic conditions, parking costs, and estimated travel times, and displays its contents in Organic LED lights—all available to be customized. Each driver’s preferences carry over from vehicle to vehicle through state-of-the-art Facial Recognition; and if one does not feel like driving, EDV lists alternative transportation options. Who knows, it might even tell its driver to get out and walk.
When asked what propelled EDV beyond its competitors, Aiken attributes the success to good old-fashioned consideration for what consumers want. He applauds the winning team for “building the social aspect” into their design, taking human needs into account, and creating healthy competition through their system of GreenPoints. The ability of the students to deliver on all aspects of the competition bodes well for their futures in the DPHS Engineering Program, which they are all a part of. The success of EDV rides nicely on the heels of the major improvements currently being made to triple the size of the Engineering Academy at DPHS, and plans for a new building to be constructed to accommodate it.
A breakfast was held at Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort in honor of the winning team, in the company of their families, project mentor Kevin Schantz, mayors Helene Schneider and Eric Onnen, DPHS principal Mark Swanitz, and the DASH+ team. The students spoke eloquently about their newfound expertise in the fusion of environmental science and engineering, and reflected the focused accomplishment that those in attendance applauded them for. Just when the final fruit plate had been cleared, one guest informed the students that “we don’t want to see any speeding tickets from you guys!” an unlikely feat, considering two out of three of the engineers has yet to receive their drivers’ licenses. However, with the DASH+ win — and the seven months of dedication leading up to this impressive moment for the Dos Pueblos High Engineering Academy — the day that these students hit the road is bound to be a fine one. Mother Nature, among others, will be proud.