Archive Copy - Published on Saturday, June 11, 2005, in the Tracy Press.

West High scientists rewarded for madness

Published on Saturday, June 11, 2005, in the Tracy Press.


Bob Brownne
Tracy Press




In his search for a cool engineering project, West High senior Dan Masquelier combined a scooter and lawnmower parts, some batteries, an electric motor and his dad’s shop stool.


The result was first place in the engineering category of West High School’s Science and Engineering Academy’s competition. He beat out about 30 others.


“He set out to design something that didn’t exist before,” said academy Director Randy Moehnke. “So he designed a … what do you call it”

“A personal transportation vehicle,” Dan said.


He wanted to create something similar to an electric scooter that would be useful for people with mobility problems.


It also had to be fast enough to go from the far corner of the West High campus to the front entrance of the Institute for Global Commerce and Government within the five minutes between classes.


“It’s fun. It goes like 15 mph,” Dan said.

Glenn Moore / Tracy Press

West High’s Dan Masquelier enjoys a ride down the street on his scooter/lawnmower Friday. Dan placed first in the engineering category of West High School’s Science and Engineering Academy’s competition.

It’s sturdy, quick on acceleration and capable of tight turns. Dan said it has also been popular with other students who want to take it out for a spin.

Dan said he got most of the parts from an online scooter parts store and combined everything on a steel frame he assembled and welded himself.

Five other students got awards from the program: three for research projects and two more for engineering projects.

Johanna Leeper had the top research project, Moehnke said. She tested different types of acoustic insulation. Connor Ramey got second place with his comparison of baseball bats, testing how aluminum bats compared with different types of wood bats, and third place winner Gregg Borman tested different types of dams.

The second-place engineering project was a gas-powered remote control car that Andrew Halpin built by replacing the electric motor from a radio-controlled car with a model airplane engine to create a zippier car.

Jaspinder Brar retrofitted a radio-controlled helicopter so it could take off from and land on water.

Moehnke said these were all semester-length projects, and while the students obviously had fun, they also had to do a lot of work, including research, presentations for their classmates and reports explaining their methods, designs and field tests.

“Most of them had outside mentors and they got help from our teachers,” he said.

Connor Ramey said that for his baseball bat study, he only recorded those pitches for which the batter reported clean contact with the ball, then he had to define what that meant.

“We made sure the pitches came at the same speed and same location,” he said. His report concluded that the aluminum bats were the most effective.

Andrew Halpin said he did speed trials in front of his house for his retrofitted radio-control car, using traffic cones and a video camera to record and calculate speeds. He said the car traveled at 35 mph at half-throttle.