Jetsun Randall-Peangmeth, NCSSM Online ’16, brings sustainable design to the track

NCSSM Online senior Jetsun Randall-Peangmeth has a not-so-little side project. This past spring, he built his third super-mileage vehicle and took first place in the Urban Concept/Alternative Fuel category at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas in Detroit, Michigan.

This was the third time Randall-Peangmeth participated in the competition. He and his team, Let’s Do It Again!, based at Dudley High School in Greensboro, NC, joined more than 130 university and high school teams from seven countries across the Americas for the competition. Teams raced their custom-built cars around the streets of the Motor City in the competition, which challenges young engineers to design, build, test, and drive ultra-energy-efficient vehicles.

Let’s Do It Again! took home top prize in the UrbanConcept alternative fuel category. Their vehicle got 107.7 miles per gallon during the competition.

Jestun Randall-Peangmeth, NCSSM Online ’16, building the engine for his third super-mileage vehicle by blending pieces from two engines donated by Honda Power Equipment.

The topic of sustainability is right up Randall-Peangmeth’s alley. He completed his NCSSM Online certificate with a concentration in environmental science, including classes such as Honors Energy and Sustainability. Randall-Peangmeth, whose former school is Studio for the Curious Mind in Washington, NC, also took classes at Beaufort County Community College, where much of the work on the vehicle was completed.

Randall-Peangmeth designed this year’s vehicle using CAD and incorporating 3D printed parts. He and his brother, Camin, who is two years younger, primarily built the vehicle, with a motor Randall-Peangmeth created with donations from Honda Power Equipment, and an original chassis that Camin constructed from used aluminum walkers and crutches. Then, the Let’s Do It Again! team worked to make sure the car was completed in only four months. The team also built a second vehicle that took third place in the same category. 

Collaboration and innovation are key in the competition. Because many of the vehicles are built using found and repurposed parts, students have to get creative in their designs. They’ve used car bumpers, old metal signs, discarded wheelchair components, even wind turbine parts. The team prides itself in keeping with the spirit of sustainable mobility by recycling “junk” each year to build their cars, says Addie Randall, Randall-Peangmeth’s mother and mentor for the team.

The team also took home one of six special awards from this year’s competition—the Spirit of the Event Award—for their collaboration and friendship with Troy High School in Michigan. Over the past school year, the two teams “cultivated a friendship built on respect and the desire to collaborate,” the Shell press release on the event reads. “Dudley High helped the Troy team realize its dream of competing in the Eco-marathon. It donated parts, tools, advice and guidance to the Troy team, which has been practically self-driven, raising funds and working long hours on its vehicle. And even though the team’s car was destroyed 11 days ago in a flooded basement, team members built a new vehicle from the ground up, inspiring every team they worked with in Detroit.”

Randall-Peangmeth first attended the competition as a sophomore. That year, and the year after, the team’s vehicles, three-wheeled prototypes running on ethanol designed by both Randall-Peangmeth brothers, were built “mostly in our kitchen,” says Randall. She and her husband are both mentors for the team. “But the Urban Concept for this year had to eventually be built elsewhere–at the community college machine shop, the Dudley High School garage in Greensboro, and at the NASCAR track facility in Roanoke Rapids.” The team also received support from industry professionals at Daimler, Volvo, and Honda. Even world champion drifter and auto designer Vaughn Gittin Jr. provided valuable insights and, then, autographed the car.

The team’s vehicles placed in their categories at both the 2014 and 2015 competitions–prototype battery electric and prototype alternative fuel: ethanol and GTL respectively. Randall-Peangmeth and the team are even featured in the behind-the-scenes video series of the 2015 competition, narrated by Jay Leno.

Hear Randall-Peangmeth discuss the “life-changing experience” (around the 2:25 minute mark).

Randall-Peangmeth’s participation and leadership in the competition have led to additional opportunities. In Detroit this year, he was selected to participate in Shell’s Student Mobility Roundtable. Moderated by Shell’s VP of External Relations, the panel included students and leaders from the automotive industry. Last year, he spoke about his ethanol prototype at a Harvard Biofuels Conference that took place at the Henry Ford Museum the week of Shell event.

While Randall-Peangmeth says he will always have an interest in cars and mechanics, his career dreams lie in a different kind of design and engineering—he hopes to work in either graphic design or sound engineering. He plans to take a gap year to explore those options before attending either North Carolina State University or Syracuse University. Wherever he ends up, he wants to start an Eco-Marathon team there.