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The Suburbanite
  • Soap Box Derby participants zip into learning

  • Four years ago the derby began its Gravity Racing Challenge Program, which started at the Inventors Hall of Fame School. The students involved built two cars and raced them while also taking the time to explore how science, math and techology fit into the race.

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  • Over the 75 years the All-American (International) Soap Box Derby has been located in Akron, many have braved the rush of flying down the 989-foot hill of Derby Downs. Although most of those racing down the famous track have been children, over the years local companies such as Goodyear and Bridgestone have held corporate events at Derby Downs, building cars and racing to encourage team building.
    Bobby Dinkins, Director of Marketing for the International Soap Box Derby (ISBD) said four years ago the derby began its Gravity Racing Challenge Program, which started at the Inventors Hall of Fame School. The students involved built two cars and raced. In the second year there were nine cars and more schools.
    Last year there were 65 cars and a variety of schools.
    “What we found was that there were schools all over the country using our cars as a hands on STEM (Science Technology, Engineering Math) activity,” Dinkins said. Schools in Singapore, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Japan have also used the cars, continuing the ISBD’s mission to develop and provide educational opportunities for K-12 youth worldwide.
    Dinkins said schools are looking for these kinds of projects. “The cars are built in the classrooms as a school or after school project using lessons on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Then they bring the cars to the track to race,” said Dinkins. Schools from all over northeast Ohio participate as well as some from other states.
    “We wanted to expand on the program,” Dinkins said, “and it was decided to start a STEM summer camp for kids where they can learn about gravity racing and how to build a car using tools that maybe they have never used before.”.
    He said they will also learn how weight and slope effect how the car goes down the hill. Students will use weight and drag on the car to learn how science effects how a derby car goes down the hill.
    “It is the next progression to the gravity racing program,” he said.
    This is the first ever summer education program offered by International Soap Box Derby. Derby officials believe it will have students begging to learn math and science. It is a fun program designed for students to learn important information that will help encourage students to think about entering these fields.
    “The Derby’s new summer program will inspire kids to learn more about STEM-related concepts and careers,” said Joseph W. Mazur, president and CEO of the Derby. “It will teach them valuable skills that will help them throughout life.”
    There will be two five day sessions held in June. The participants will learn the effects and power of gravity. Everyone will showcase thier team’s achievements by racing down the track. Kids will also set up their own “mini” Soap Box Derby car and race it against other participants.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ages 9-12 can choose from one of two sessions: June 10-14 or June 17-21. Sessions will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  For more information call 330-733-8723 or visit www.aasbd.org and go to the Education tab.
    The first All-American race was held in Dayton in 1934. It has grown to more than 600 races throughout the world every year.