AKRON When we think Soap Box Derby, we usually think of kids in their derby cars racing down the hill during the All American Soap Box Derby. But there is so much more that goes on at the famed hill.
The derby, located right in our backyard in Ellet, offers so much more to the community, schools and corporations. Every event ends up going "downhill," but it is all educational fun.
This July will mark the 80th anniversary of the Soap Box Derby where more than 400 kids from all over the world will be competing.
Alongside the local derby races and the All American Soap Box Derby, the famous hill at Derby Downs is used for other events such as the popular gravity racing challenge STEM team competition for middle school and high school students. This year, the derby partnered with the University of Akron's College of Engineering to sponsor gravity racing STEM team challenges in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Marysville.
"We are trying to grow our footprint with our education races," said Derby Downs Vice President Bobby Dinkins. "The history of the program has proved that kids who race in the program, a lot of them go on to be engineers."
The Gravity Challenge is set up for students to work together in teams to build and race their soapbox derby car. It teaches students things such as how to use tools, drag and friction verses motion.
Dinkins said the STEM-based curriculum was born from a request from teachers, who wanted to see if the derby would get involved. The program includes five modules that teaches kids about science, math, history, language arts and uses the Soap Box Derby as a teaching tool. The modules have kits and they are used in the classrooms or after school settings.
"It is another way to bring the Soap Box Derby to more people and to more kids and use the derby as a tool to teach kids about STEM," Dinkins said.
Area schools participating in the program this year, which is from May 18-20, are Springfield High School Junior High, Coventry Middle School, Green Middle School, Lake High School, Lake Middle School and Glenwood Middle School.
"The STEM based education program is growing, especially now with the partnership with UA. We are thrilled, it is exciting for us," said Dinkins, who said officials are anticipating that on that May 20, there will be 2,500 to 3,000 kids on the track.
Family Day, June 29
This event invites families are for some intergenerational racing from 4-8 p.m.. Grandparents race grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, parents and kids can all take a ride downhill. Children must be at least 7 years of age, 46-inches tall and be able to operate a car on their own to race. Ticket holders get a ride down the hill. There will be entertainment and food trucks will be on sight for a snack or dinner. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Active Adult office at 220 South Balch Street, Akron, or by calling 330-375-2852.
United Way Corporate Derby Challenge, July 13 and 14
The derby hosts the United Way Corporate Derby Challenge. The growing event is presented by Fallsway Equipment Company and benefits the Soap Box Derby's Bill Speeg Memorial Scholarship Fund for champions of the All American Soap Box Derby and to provide programming for at-risk youth in Summit County. Those attending are challenged to collaborate, create and compete. Teams from corporations and small businesses collaborate to assemble, decorate and compete in building adult cars and compete in a fun race. It offers a great team building opportunity and offers a fun way for the business community to support the derby. This year the registrations deadline is June 9. Call 330-733-8723 for more information and to register a team.
A five-day STEM based summer program is held for kids ages 9 through 12 at Derby Downs. The campers will construct a derby car, race, participate in hands-on STEM projects, make friends, be part of a team and more. The program runs June 12-16 and June 19-23 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call 330-733-8723. On the last day of camp, families get to go down the hill.
Inclusion Day, Aug. 12
Originally the event was called Autism Day, but has been changed to Inclusion Day as it has opened up to children of all spectrums who typically cannot operate a soap box derby car independently. The kids come to the derby and ride as a passenger in a double derby car down the great hill with experienced derby drivers. With the partnership of GPD Group Employee Foundation it was possible for the event to grow.
Senior Day, Aug. 31
A day dedicated to those wanting to check another item off their bucket list. Senior citizens have their chance to speed down the hill in an adult derby car. The event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and lunch is provided from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $14 and the rain date is Sept. 7. Doctors from Cleveland Clinic Akron General will be on hand at the health and wellness fair, which includes health and blood pressure screenings, as well as other information. Visitors will also get to tour the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame and Museum Building. There will be live entertainment. Tickets are available now online or at any Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health and Wellness Centers, Akron area AAA offices or at the derby headquarters.
To learn more about any of the derby programs visit www.soapboxderby.org, call 330-733-8723 or visit derby headquarters located 789 Derby Downs Drive.