West Philadelphia High School has a dropout rate of more than 50 percent, and 85 percent of students are low-income. But instead of making trouble in their neighborhood, getting in one little fight, or even shooting some B-ball outside of the school, a team of 15 dedicated West Philly students built a badass hybrid car that gets 160 miles to the gallon. Then they entered it in a contest where it beat the pants off cars built by fancy Ivy League engineers.
The West Philly Hybrid X Team was the only high school team entered in last year's Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. They didn't win the $10 million prize, but they did beat more than 80 teams — cars built by much older and more experienced engineers — to get to the semifinals. Now they've won one of Popular Mechanics' Breakthrough Awards. And even better: Against the odds, every member of the Hybrid X Team graduated.