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Soap Box Derby’s Gravity Racing Challenge growing

2/13/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

SOUTH AKRON — The International Soap Box Derby’s Gravity Racing Challenge (GRC) program is expanding as races will be held in five cities in 2014.

According to derby officials, promoting the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative in education through gravity racing, the GRC program is designed to provide kindergarten through 12th-grade educators and students with meaningful project- and standards-based intercurricular learning opportunities. Educators are implementing the GRC program in classrooms and after-school, summer or enrichment programs and clubs worldwide, according to derby officials.

“The GRC program continues to grow,” said Derby President and CEO Joe Mazur. “In addition to the May 17 GRC race at Derby Downs, we’ve added education races in Cleveland, Columbus, Rochester, N.Y., and Culpeper, Va.”

According to derby officials, teams of up to 10 students are assembling their Stock or Super Stock cars in hopes of building the fastest Soap Box Derby car.

“We first introduce our kids to the program by watching the movie ‘25 Hill,’” said Radonna Mair, a Hatton Community Learning Center teacher. “We then put the kids through a series of STEM activities and start to build the cars. We have a lot of students who sign up for our Akron After School program just so they can be part of the Soap Box Derby team. It’s a fantastic enrichment activity.”

The International Soap Box Derby is the recognized governing body of Soap Box Derby racing and includes the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby and the GRC, according to derby officials. The International Soap Box Derby also operates the Derby Downs Track, where more than 70 events are held annually, according to derby officials.

“Because more school children are now being exposed to Soap Box Derby racing, we’ve also been able to add Soap Box Derby STEM summer camps to the GRC program,” said Mazur. “Camps will now be conducted in Akron and Culpeper this summer.”

According to derby officials, the GRC race, first held in May 2010, featured only two teams. Last year’s GRC competition included more than 700 educators and students and 90 school teams in Ohio. Throughout this event, teams competed not only in racing, but also in photography, infomercial, marketing and graphic design competitions. In addition, universities, businesses and community organizations conducted STEM activities throughout the GRC event for students to experience.

“A number of local companies believe in the vision of the program and have supported it over the last several years,” said Mazur. “Through a partnership with PNC Foundation, we were able to place cars in a number of classrooms in the Akron Public School system this year. We also have received support from Fleming’s Steakhouse and Waterloo Transmission to place cars into schools, as well as partnerships with GPD Group, AAA and Time Warner Cable.”

For more information on how a school can become part of the GRC program, call Education Director Linda Hubbell at 740-817-0345 or visit www.aasbd.org and click on the Education tab.

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