Car Team’s Catalina QuikSCience Award Trip!

The QuikSCience Challenge winning team’s prize is a week-long trip to Catalina Island. The official description for this trip on the QuikSCience website is: “an expedition for the students and their teacher or advisor to the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. The one-week trip will include expeditions to different parts of the island, visits to laboratories at the USC center, snorkeling, kayaking and hiking.”

I say it should read “the best possible way to spend 5 days of summer of ’12

At 4:00pm on June 29, Team Marine joined the 2nd place winners from Hawaii’s Kamehameha High School to board a boat to the USC’s Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island.

Our first “actual” day started on June 30. We were given an orientation of the campus from the marine research laboratories to the touch tanks. We were able to hold a sea cucumber, a starfish sea star, and a sea urchin. We then set out kayaking, paired with a buddy from the Hawaii team, and rowed our way to Two Harbors with Terri and DJ explaining places of geological importance along the way. Snorkeling was a very, very cold, but nonetheless an unforgettable experience. We first wrestled with our wetsuits (an article of clothing that is extremely difficult to put on) and put on our snorkel gear. Terri led us into a narrow passageway to a cave and then we swam to the other side of the boat dock to see leopard sharks and bat rays. After all the energy-consuming activities, we were all ravenous and wasted no time devouring food for dinner. If this was an indication of how much we were going to eat for the rest of the trip, I was quite worried. At night, we had a plankton lab which consisted of observing samples under a microscope. Lorraine helped us with the plankton tow with a 80 micron mesh net. We were able to see bioluminescence when Lorraine ran her hands against the net. It was just magical watching bright sparks from bioluminescent plankton twinkle in the night.

Team Marine in the water before snorkeling began


Day 2 was more relaxed, yet still packed with adventure and fun. We took a road trip to Little Harbor where we went for a hike and explored the beach (all while being environmentally conscious and picking up trash and single use plastics such as bottle caps, straws, and foam). We then unleashed our artistic side with soapstone carving. I made a fish while others created a seashell, a shark, and a ball. We then took the bus to visit the island fox (which was very small, comparable to a household cat), a bald eagle, and a golden eagle. Along the way, we were fortunate enough to spot multiple bisons! Dinner was at Airport in the Sky, where some students tried bison burgers. Back at the USC institute, we headed out for a night snorkel. This time, I was ready for the cold; equipped with two wetsuits and a hood. We saw lobsters, opal eyes, and when we shined our torch in the water, schools of Senoritas and larvae would swim toward it. Even with my prescription mask, I couldn’t see very well in the dark and lost my snorkeling partner, Annie, too many times to count. However, the night life of the sea was fascinating to say the least.

Looking out onto the incredible view

The third day was the best day of this trip for me (with the exception of saying goodbye to the Hawaii team). We were definitely sad to see them leave and felt their absence. After a wave of goodbyes, we came back to the institute and DJ showed us her secret hiking trail, which led up to a Great Blue Heron’s nest. We felt adventurous and hiked further up the trail (DJ admitted that she had never gone past the point). It was a good thing we spontaneously traveled further, because we discovered the perfect place. It had a wooden bench that looked out onto the ocean. We also saw a pod of dolphins diving as they crazily chased after their prey. At Two Harbors, Team Marine went mountain biking on a trail that went past Cherry Cove. Thanks to this trip, I discovered my new favorite activity: paddle boarding. It was the first time I had paddle boarded and I was scared of falling off. Fortunately, I found my balance and headed out to the deeper water. I absolutely enjoyed all the activities Terri and DJ had planned for us that day.

Mountain Biking at Two Harbors


The last day for Car Team on Catalina Island was spent with the Bag Team (who were here for their one-day trip). Terri and DJ took all of us kayaking and upon Mr. Kay’s request we paddled to Bird Rock. It was a tiny island covered in bird scat with a small patch of green grass. There were sea lions resting there. As we got closer and closer, the stench was overbearing. We pulled the neck of our Team Marine shirts up to cover our noses and paddled away. This was followed by a short hike where we spotted a trail of bison poop and indeed we saw a lonesome bison at the top of the hill.

The amazing Terri (QuikSCience Program Manager)!


The past few days on Catalina Island was incredible and I’m grateful to Terri and DJ for always putting the students before themselves and making sure we had fun. Not only was this an adventure, but also it proved to be a great way to absorb information about the wildlife and marine life of Catalina. As I stood on the boat looking back at the island getting further and further away, I found myself realizing this trip had brought Team Marine members even closer together. QuikSCience Catalina Trip ’12, you will be remembered for years to come.


Written by Angelina Hwang


Catalina Trip

Tomorrow at 4 o’clock, Team Marine coach Mr. Kay, along with members Kalon, Ivan, Annie, Cassandra, and Angelina will be loading a boat on our way to Catalina Island. For roughly four days, we will snorkel, hike, and explore the island with the Hawaii team and Bag Team, as they join us on the last day of our trip. We are looking forward to hearing the other team’s projects as we will also be presenting Bag Team’s research to the group and Car Team’s project summary. We can’t wait to see what Catalina offers!

Moving Out: Update 3/29/12

Today we moved the car from Santa Monica high school to Gadget’s house! After hours of planning we were able to obtain a tow truck using AAA. Everything went well except for when the tow truck driver got lost and ended up in downtown LA due to a problem with his GPS. I was sad to see the car being pulled out of its two year home at Samohi but at the same time thrilled to see the project on its way to completion.

Car Conversion Update 3/13/12

We have successfully installed most of the parts onto the car and connected the wired harness to the respected parts. The Pot Box (a variable resister the converts the motion of the throttle peddle to an electric signal) was tricky to install at first. The throttle cable was smaller then the grips needed to connect it to the pot box. We solved this by cutting a thin piece of rubber from an old car hood and rolled it on the throttle cable. This allows the clamps to hold the cable with enough pressure to withstand a fast pull. Another problem we faced was that the pot box was not exerting a strong enough force to pull the peddle back to restore it to its original position. We fixed this by lowering the clamp on the lever closer to the point of rotation.

Connecting the wires from the controller harness was a real mess at first. We had to figure out where every thing went while trying to organize it. It was a very interesting experience. It took a lot of double checking the circuit diagram to make sure I was cutting the right wire and connecting it to the right terminal. After a few days we finished the wiring, leaving it organized allowing it to run along the wall of the trunk. A lot of extra wiring was left over so we bundled it up and left it on the side next to the motor controller. We connected the 12v contacter to the key switch and ground of the car and it made a popping sound indicating that it worked! We had to take out the rug temporarily to run the key switch wire and display wire under it to the front of the car.

Now we are working on assembling the wires that will transmute the high wattage from the batteries to the controller and then to the motor. The wires arrived yesterday and today we were able to cut them to the right size, strip the ends and connect the terminal posts to most of them.The terminal posts contained a little grease with copper particles to help with conductivity. Tomorrow we are going to finish crimping the terminals onto the wires and sliding in a shrink wrap to protect the bare wire. very exiting.

Car Conversion Update 2/29/12

The conversion process is gaining speed as the community becomes increasingly aware of the VW beetle. Since the article on the bug was released two weeks ago in the Santa Monica Daily Press we have been getting a lot of support and feedback from the community, mainly about donations to help buy the batteries. In terms of the actual process we have done leaps and bounds we have successfully installed two very sturdy platforms next to the motor. This platforms will hold vital components of the cars main electrical system such as the motor controller, DC-DC converter, Pot-Box, and the 24V contacter. We have also been assembling a Lithium battery packs donated by Trexa, we are going to use this battery to test out the electrical components and to see if everything is working.  We are very exited about this progress because we are getting closer and closer to completing the car. All we need, after bolting down the components, is to wire them up and turn the key switch on.

Car Team’s on a Roll!

Car Team’s Overview video has finally been completed! This video gives a short summary of what the past few weeks have been like for the team. We have been active in the community from teaching students at Lincoln and JAMS to expanding our knowledge of the electric car conversion process.

If the video isn’t working you can see it here:

Team Marine in the Newspaper!

Team Marine’s Car Team has been featured in the February 11-12 issue of the Santa Monica Daily Press. This is a great feat as it means that our work is being informed to the community. The Daily Press highlights the motivation that encouraged Team Marine in taking up the electric car conversion; the health effects of gas powered cars. However, the environmental impacts tailpipe pollution also acted as a catalyst. Ocean acidification, climate change, smog, and black carbon. These matters directly affect global ecosystems and become more pronounced with increasing population size and the need for transportation.  The world’s living conditions and health are in rapid decline due to a reliance on fossil fuels.  The electric car is one solution to these issues as it produces zero emissions. While it is not a perfect remedy, since the electricity used to power the car has some power plant emissions, EVs greatly reduce carbon dioxide emissions due to the higher efficiency of power plants. The paper also mentions the team’s urgent need for batteries, the most important component of the car, in order to complete the project. The purpose behind selecting lithium ion batteries to power the car is due to their large energy density and convenient size – meaning they can pack a lot of punch in a small space.


Written by Angelina Hwang


Electric Car Update

The struggle to convert an old Volkswagen Bug into a fully electric car has been a long and hard one. On tuesday, Team Marine members searched for certain types of 96-volt lithium ion batteries for our electric car conversion. Yesterday, our Eco-Engineer, Patricio Guerrero, was emailed by the manager of a battery manufacturing company telling us that they could custom build batteries to fit the necessary dimensions for the back seat of our Volkswagen Bug!

As if this wasn’t good enough news, Patricio also purchased new throw-out bearings. The throw-out bearings are important because they allow the engine to maintain momentum without consuming energy while the clutch is engaged. These small feats bring us a few steps closer to making our dream of a fully electric Bug a reality.
VW-1339-c Throw-out Bearing with clips!
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