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Soapbox Derby teams with local school district’s with STEM programs

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent
Coventry High School students pose next to their winning Super Stock derby car. Coventry, Springfield and Green are apart of the International Soap Box Derby's Gravity Racing Challenge.

We may not see the iconic derby cars racing down the famed Soap Box Derby hill this year, but that has not stopped the derby from educating children in Summit County when it comes to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The International Soap Box Derby (ISBD) recently received a $30,000 Summit County Community Development Block Grant to place the Soap Box Derby’s STEM Programs in seven Summit County school districts.

Students in area schools that will benefit from the generosity of the grant are Green Intermediate and O.H. Sommers School in Mogadore, which will be participating in the Derby’s Mini Soap Box Derby Car STEM Education program. Those students will be constructing, testing, and racing 1/13 scale models of Soap Box Derby cars. They will participate in a multi-lesson Mini Soap Box Derby Car program as they learn important STEM concepts such as force, friction, and gravity. Those schools receive mini cars, student activity booklets, teacher guides, tool kits, and a variety of other resources to aid with STEM learning.

Springfield Junior and Senior High School, Coventry Middle and High School and Green High School will be a part of the Soap Box Derby’s Gravity Racing Challenge (GRC) STEM Team Competition which is presented by the University of Akron. These teams in the Engineering Design Challenge program will construct full-size Soap Box Derby cars using the Derby's Engineering Design kit. Student teams assemble the chassis of their car based on the provided plans, then use their creativity, engineering and design skills to build the body shell according to the GRC guidelines.

The derby has been able to continue its mission to “educate and inspire youth” through receiving the block grant. With perseverance and commitment, the derby has been able to develop STEM education programs such as the Gravity Racing Challenge.

“We are excited for the opportunity to impact Summit County Schools through this grant,” International Soap Box Derby President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Gerberich said. “This last year, we have been working with both Stark and Summit County Schools to integrate Soap Box Derby programs into the classroom, after school programs and summer camps.”

He said this grant gives the derby a great chance to impact close to 1,000 students.

Gerberich said the exciting part is that the kids get to work with the mini cars but also make large cars and compete in the gravity racing program. Depending on what the school or teacher wants, there are different STEM programs available.

Last year, the derby gave a way about $120,000 in materials back to Northeast Ohio schools.

“We have had some great partners,” Gerberich said. “We get money from the Stark Community Foundation, the Akron Community Foundation, Huntington Bank, Legacy Motors, First Energy and County of Summit which has been really helpful in pulling together some money so we can impact these kids.”

He said the great things about the STEM programs is that they want to be partners with the schools.

“If we can provide additional STEM programs for the kids to learn while they are having fun and dealing with science technology engineering and math, then that is a great thing for everybody,” Gerberich said. “We love working with the schools. With Summit County giving us the grant, we are able to help schools and we are trying to be great stewards of that money.”

The derby is flexible with the schools and teachers to make programs work in their classrooms.

The STEM programs first began in 2010. The programs provide educational opportunities for students in grades K through 12 worldwide through derby racing. The derby dates back to 1934 when the first All-American race was held in Dayton.

For more information on the derby and student programs visit www.soapboxderby.org.

Green High School students pose next to their car that won best graphic design. Coventry, Springfield and Green are apart of the International Soap Box Derby's Gravity Racing Challenge.