SPRINGFIELD TWP. Students in Springifeld High School’s Soap Box Derby Club recently competed in the annual Gravity Racing Challenge hosted by the All-American Soap Box Derby.


Springfield Technology Education teacher Peter Geiss is the adviser to the Soap Box Derby Club at Springfield High School and said this was the first year that the students participated in the Engineering Design Challenge.


He explained that in this particular division students first assemble the axles, steering mechanism and the braking system for the vehicle. Then, they must design and build the shell of the vehicle while staying within several constraints including height, width, length, and overall weight of the vehicle.


"Our team decided to build a car that would minimize air resistance," Geiss said. "In order to achieve this, they lengthened the body of the car and tapered in the edges in order to reduce frontal drag and rear suction,"


The students also created gentle slopes up toward the middle of the vehicle, where the driver would be located, in order to reduce frontal pressure.


After the students completed the shell of the vehicle, they surrounded the opening where the driver would be entering and exiting the car with foam. This effort would minimize the amount of air that would enter the car while it was racing down the hill. Geiss said they finished it off by painting the car red, to go along with the Springfield school colors.


"The students then added some spartan heads on the front and back of the car to add a little extra school pride," he said.


The students also had two other cars that were super stock cars entered into the challenge for the seventh year.


"That was pretty familiar territory for us," said Geiss.


The students reverse engineer many components of the cars as they disassemble many of the steering and braking mechanisms and replace them to better fit the drivers. It is also necessary for them to add weights to the vehicles, so they weigh exactly 240 pounds with the driver inside the car. Weights can be positioned in the front, middle, or rear of the vehicle. It takes teamwork for the students to decide what they think will work best and then form a plan about how to get the proper amount of weight in the proper locations to maximize speed. It is all about working together.


Geiss said he was very proud of all the students.


"They worked together very well when it came to getting the cars ready to race, and they showed great teamwork and sportsmanship on the day of the race," he said, adding all three drivers handled their nerves very well and seemed to get better as they got more chances to race. "Senior Christopher Clement, our honorary team captain, was an incredible help. He was unloading cars, swapping wheels, setting cars into the starting blocks, and being a great encouragement to his teammates all night long.  We could not have done it without him."


Drivers of the derby cars were Jaylee Greenwell, Josephine Turney and Larry Ritterbeck, "all raced incredibly well while representing the Spartans," Geiss said.


Josephine Turney was awarded a third-place trophy for her racing in the super stock division, and senior Larry Ritterbeck was awarded a first place trophy for winning the Engineering Design Challenge race.  The team was also awarded a third-place trophy in the category of Best Design for the Engineering Design Challenge car.