Hydrogen-powered LEGO and African robots: Don’t miss SA’s most innovative students at the Shell Eco-marathon this weekend


What do CO2-powered drag racers, hydrogen fuel cells, long distance driving and LEGO have in common? They’ll all be inspiring creative students to solve energy use challenges at Zwartkops Raceway this weekend, as the Shell Eco-marathon returns to South Africa for its third year.

Shell Eco-marathon is a series of global competition that scours the world to showcase the next generation of engineering excellence, pitting student teams from high schools and universities against each other.

The core of the two day Shell Eco-marathon here in South Africa, which takes place on 15 and 16 October, is a challenge to build a vehicle that can out-efficient all others. Entries are split into two categories, Prototype and UrbanConcept vehicles, and can be powered by Shell Fuel Save Unleaded 93 Gasoline, Shell Fuel Save Diesel, battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell.

Prizes will be awarded in a variety of categories from performance to safety. The aim is not to be the fastest around the track but to use the fewest litres per hundred kilometres or equivalent.

There are 15 teams from South Africa lined up to compete with a wide variety of designs. Hopefully, some will go on to take part in a larger global event in Europe next year.

The Shell Eco-marathon is being put together in partnership with University of Johannesburg’s School of Electrical Engineering.

But wait, there’s more. If that wasn’t enough to tempt you to head up to Pretoria for a weekend of racing, there’s a series of partner challenges taking place at the same time too.

We’ve already written about one of them: the Afrikabot 2016 challenge has been recruiting roboteers from township schools over the course of the last year. Other events happening at Zwartkops as part of the Shell Eco-marathon include a drag racing competition in which cars must be built from a plank of wood and use a CO2 cannister to provide forward motion.

Best of all, however, is the LEGO challenge, in which cars built from everyone’s favourite blocks must race over a 10m track. The tricky part is that the LEGO cars must be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

Interested? Catch all these and more at the Shell Eco-marathon this weekend at Zwartkops Raceway, and see future engineers building future cars today.

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