There are several reasons why teachers should tune into tonight’s Frontline: Fast Times at West Philly High. The first is to study and root for Simon Hauger, the engineer turned math and science teacher turned founder of the West Philly Hybrid X Team. Through this after school program he created, at risk students have built hybrid cars that have won national competitions.


The next reason is to see how the teens in the program were transformed. Hauger’s basic premise was to give students real and relevant problems to solve and to challenge them to use math and science to do it. They rose to the challenge.


For example, they dreamed of creating a hybrid sports car way before the Ford Focus came out. And they created one on a $25,000 budget. These students have grown into savvy, confident, articulate researchers who can present their ideas in front of adults. They have college on their minds.

And you’ll definitely want to watch to follow Hauger and the teens as they build two fast vehicles to enter into the $10M Progressive Automotive X Prize, a global competition that awards three teams millions for building cars that are safe, affordable and can achieve at least 100 MPGe.

Do they win? Watch GPB at 9 PM to find out. But without watching it’s clear that Project Based Learner wins here - taking students out of the traditional classroom and immersing them in a real situation to spark learning. With creativity and perseverance any teacher launch a project based learning endeavor.

Ignite Show Blogger and founder Anne Ost profiles a program that is working in Northside High School in Columbus, Ga. Watch the program.

As for Simon Hauger, he has expanded his vision by cofounding the Sustainability Workshop. It’s currently a senior year project for several schools in Philadelphia that extends the premise of his original afterschool program. He wants to create high schools based on the concept.

Do you use project based learning in your classrooms? Tell us about your projects. And what did you think of the Frontline show?