3.11.2008

ELECTRIC YOUTH

You may have heard of Elon Musk, whose first X Prize was announced in 1995: $10 million to the first non-governmental organization that could achieve space flight in a reusable craft. The latest X Prize is a $25 million purse for the entity that can make a car that gets 100 miles to the gallon and that is cheap enough to be mass-produced and mass-marketed. The goal is to stimulate innovation towards energy-efficient vehicles, something that DC and Detroit seem slow to embrace.

As it so happens, one of the entrants in this contest is down the street from where I live: a group of inner city teens from West Philadelphia High School, a school most recently notorious for a string of fires and violence that constantly interrupted operations. The place may have a bad rep, but the kids working on the entry are top-notch, a force to be reckoned with, and (if I can be of any help), a voice that ought to be heard.

This morning, I met with Simon Hauger, the head of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, and a good friend of mine from church, as well as with Jeremy Proffitt, who is assisting Simon in building out the team's website. We were energized by the many ways in which the participating youth could have a voice in this whole process, from designing the vehicle itself to pushing for more energy-efficient vehicles. In an election year, there is all the more interest and opportunity to move the needle in terms of discussion, action, and policy. It's Simon's job, curricularly, to engage the kids to that end; and, to the extent that the website can be a platform for filling into that leadership and advocacy position, that's where Jeremy comes in. And if I can help either, I'll do my best to try.

So keep your eye out on these young men and women. If one day you're filling up your car with two gallons of gas, or no gas at all, you might have them to thank for it.
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