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Letter: 'Supermileage' should be more commonplace

I competed this year in the Minnesota Technology Education Association Supermileage competition with a group of students from Laurens-Marathon, Iowa. My first team was from Ellsworth back in 1999. I have taken teams from Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Marshall, and Hayfield, Minn., and a team from Lennox, S.D.

These competitions are my passion as an industrial technology teacher. There are many reasons why this and other competitions in technology education -- such as Robotics, Solar Boat Regatta, Electric Vehicle, CAD and many others -- are so important. Students work together to design, build and compete, just like what they will be doing when they get out of college or vocational/technical schools. These competitions also help students apply the math skills to something tangible.

When I was a kid I learned math for two reasons: Mr. Schimbeno told me to, and Mr. Amundson told me that if I wanted to be an electronics technician I had to know math. That is all the motivation I needed. That was also back in the day when students designed and assembled complex electronics projects and overhauled automobile engines in the shops in Worthington.

Things have changed since then. I have visited, interviewed or taught in over 50 schools in Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa and Connecticut, and one prison. From what I have seen in Iowa and Minnesota is that money talks. If the school district is within an affluent area, the school has all the money they need to outfit awesome tech ed facilities. Schools such as Edina, St. Francis, Forest Lake and Pine Island in Minnesota have great programs. I have been to schools in Sioux City, Central Lyon and Pocahontas in Iowa with very nice facilities. South Dakota's major cities such as Watertown, Aberdeen, Brookings and Sioux Falls all have technical schools for all the smaller schools in their areas to send kids. The state of Connecticut has 13 technical high schools. Need I say more?

The state of Connecticut ranks in the top three of every measurable education statistic in the nation. Yes, they also have the highest per-capita income in the nation, also.

I would think that these competitions (supermileage) would help increase public awareness of our need to produce vehicles that get better mileage. Think again -- automobile companies want you to believe that 40 mpg is good. Hogwash! In 1985, all Hondas got better than 35 mpg, and most topped 40. Granted, U.S. manufacturers have drastically increased their mileage -- but not enough.

Every gearhead -- like myself, who has raced restored and adored the automobile for 40 years -- knows that if a 400 HP Camaro or Mustang can get 25 mpg, a 4-banger commuter car should get 70 without being a hybrid. Big oil and big car companies have been in bed since the '40s -- just ask the Tucker family or the A.K. Miller family. I am passionate about anything with an engine, wheels or wings, but would also love to be able drive something every day that gets better than an insulting 40 mpg.