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Industrial design student Sean Coleman returns from three days at the 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas event in Houston, where he drove a concept car he designed at NC State.

Sean Coleman posing next to his concept car.
Sean Coleman in Houston with the concept car he designed at NC State.

Ah, the good life.

A grad student could get used to it, says NC State industrial design student Sean Coleman, who recently returned from his three-day excursion to Houston, where he palled around with oil company execs, donned a NASCAR racing outfit (borrowed from Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick) and took in the Duke-Baylor game in the Elite Eight.

Coleman’s an elite in his own right. He lapped the competition in February in the urban concept car competition for the 2010 Shell Eco-Marathon Americas (SEMA) event. Shell took his stylish but meticulously crafted design and built it from the ground up to display at the show, which attracted thousands of car enthusiasts and green energy buffs.

Coleman — who is significantly taller than the car — somehow managed to squeeze himself into the two-seater to give Mayor Annise Parker a drive around Discovery Green in the heart of downtown Houston.

“It drove like a go-cart,” he said afterward.

Coleman with Houston mayor posing next to his concept car.
Coleman with Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

Coleman tried to do a solo lap around the course, but a Shell executive made him pull over so the guy’s wife could catch a ride.

Later, Coleman met the fabricator who built the car and the two took in a race at Houston Motor Sports Park.

“It was loud and fast,” Coleman said.

Not exactly like his own little red sports car.

“Mine was loud, but it wasn’t fast,” he confessed. “It only got up to 27 miles per hour.”

But, he added optimistically, he could have teased out a little more speed if he hadn’t had that extra passenger.

Now back on campus, Coleman continues to work on his master’s degree in industrial design. His latest project is a digital drum set. Is he giving up car design?

“I’ll work anywhere that I love the job,” he said.