FRONTLINE: Fast Times At West Philly High
Airs Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV
Can a group of inner-city high school students from one of Philadelphia’s toughest neighborhoods beat the odds and build the next great super-hybrid car? In FRONTLINE’s "Fast Times At West Philly High," a team of young auto builders takes on some of the world’s smartest and richest engineers to compete for a $10 million prize.
FRONTLINE follows the teens as they help build two fast and innovative vehicles during an after-school program. They are led by math and science teacher Simon Hauger, who started the program as a way to keep at-risk kids in school.
“The basic assumption is that if you give students a problem to struggle with, something that’s real and relevant, it gets them thinking about what they’re passionate about and interested in,” says Hauger, who pushes his students to solve real-world problems through hands-on learning. “They take ownership over their learning. They get excited about it. They create a vision for themselves, moving forward as a learner, and that’s really what we want.”
The quest for the X PRIZE provides lessons in the power of dedication and passion and the challenges of technological innovation. “If an inner-city high school with no money can create a car that gets 80 or 100 miles per gallon, then I think we’re accomplishing something big. I think we’ll make history,” West Philly team member Samantha Wright tells FRONTLINE.
In "The Middle School Moment," FRONTLINE reports on new evidence that suggests the make-or-break moment for high school dropouts may actually occur in middle school. The film explores how one Bronx school is using a novel form of data collection and analysis to predict and prevent dropouts.
The Middle School Moment is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities across America identify and implement solutions to address the dropout crisis.