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Middle-Schoolers Prepare For Soap Box Derby Race (With Photos)

Students in Todd Alkire's science class get the chance to race in the Gravity Racing Challenge at Derby Downs Hill in Akron this Saturday

This Saturday, students who never thought they'd be part of a Soap Box Derby team are getting the chance to do just that.

Many will strap on helmets and hop into super stock cars that they and their teammates built as they compete at Derby Downs Hill in Akron at the Gravity Racing Challenge, sponsored by the All-American Soap Box Derby.

"They're pretty jazzed about it," Todd Alkire said of his sixth-grade class. "They've been working for at least three solid weeks building the cars."

The project provided several lessons for the students, from learning to build a race car to understanding the scientific concepts that apply to racing. The project falls into line with a STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), which Alkire has been .

The program has even been a learning experience for Alkire, too.

"I've never built one of these cars, ever," he said. "It's taken a lot of patience, a few busted bolts and a few busted knuckles."

Sixth-grader Stephanie Getz said her previous racing experience with stock cars landed her in the driver's seat for her five-member team, which also includes Emma Kirkbride and Julianne Villella.

Getz said she's been racing for about a year and a half now, at the encouragement of a family friend.

"My dad's friend was in the Soap Box Derby and he thought it'd be a good idea for me to get into some other sports," she said. "So I decided to do it and it was a lot of fun."

Getz and her teammates also talked this past week with North Canton Patch about what it was like to build the cars and learn about the science behind them.

For Kirkbride, the most important part of building the cars was measurement. For Villella, it was team work.

"If you're not acting as a team, it won't get done," she said.

Each car was sponsored by a local company (check out the PDFs section for all the sponsoring companies) and cost about $600. The group raised $3,600 in just three weeks so that they could construct the cars, Alkire said.

And now he and the students plan to take the cars and show them off at some of the local companies.

He said the lesson will be adapted into an after-school enrichment program next year, and the race cars the students built this year will go to the schools within the North Canton City School District.

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