Carmel High School grad Ghassan Zalem helps lead Indiana State University team designing fuel-efficient vehicle

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Ghassan Zalem explains aerodynamic principals and results from a wind tunnel simulation. (Submitted photo)

Ghassan Zalem explains aerodynamic principals and results from a wind tunnel simulation. (Submitted photo)

By Amanda Foust

A Carmel High School graduate is helping to lead a team of Indiana State University students as they build, design and drive an ultra-energy-efficient vehicle for the Eco-Marathon Challenge April 22 to 24 in Detroit.

Ghassan Zalem, who graduated from CHS in 2012, is the director of body design for the ISU team, the first from the school to compete in the event.

“Rather than working with the fuel directly, (the competition) is more of what we can change and alter around the entire vehicle to maximize the efficiency of that fuel,” he said.

Zalem said the 125 teams chosen to participate in the event receive an equal amount of fuel for the competition. They create a removable fuel system for a vehicle they drive around a track for a distance of .6 miles. Last year, only 80 of the 130 teams made it to the track.

“Our main goal is to make it all the way around the track successfully,” Zalem said.

As a student at CHS, Zalem was a member of the TechHOUNDS Robotics Club.

“After TechHOUNDS, I spent my first three years of college looking for something like it,” he said. “I finally found it.”

Zalem said TechHOUNDS prepared him with technical, development and leadership skills. Under Zalem’s leadership, the ISU eco-marathon team has grown from five to 47 members working long nights and weekends, committed to experiencing a successful mission.

“The students are working hard and very capable of designing and building their vehicle,” said Kristina Lawyer, the team’s faculty advisor.

After graduating in May with a degree in mechanical engineering technology, Zalem plans to work for AIS Gauging, where he is an intern.

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