The drivers weren’t really going that fast, in fact some of the Rome High School students didn’t even have to activate their brakes after they crossed the finish line on Wolf Drive Friday morning during the school’s first ever Soap Box Derby.
The derby was the final product of students from the school’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education pathways who have been working for several months to design and produce the race.
Tracey Warren, a teacher in the construction pathway, said the new program combined all of the lessons taught to students over the school year for one final end of the year project that staff hopes can be an annual event. It was an experiment for everyone, he said.
During the first semester students learned shop and tool safety. During the second semester students were broken up into teams and had to design their soap box without any internet help. Associate Principal Misty Tucker said in the trial runs students drove with weights and studied the physics of the course. The project has helped the students learn to work in a competitive environment and also how to work together as a team, Warren said.
Each team had a rotating driver along with a pit crew who serviced the car in between each heat. Students tightened wheels and adjusted brakes to ensure their car performed like it was supposed to during the next heat. After the pit stop drivers and crew towed the car to the top of the hill where two at a time drivers raced down Wolf Drive towards RHS.
Principal Eric Holland manned a car during one of the heats and crossed the finish line while students chanted his name right before he spun out his soapbox car.
Holland was unharmed but broke a wheel during his unintentional burnout at the finish line.
“We only broke two cars today,” Warren said to students after their lunch break. “I can live with that, the main goal is to have a good time.”
“This is the best thing the school has ever done,” senior Taylor Shaw, a pit crew member said. “Glad I was still here for it.”
Holly Amerman, CTAE director, said the event encompassed more than just engineering and construction pathways, it also included several other CTAE pathways as well. Health care students manned a first aid tent in case of injury, public safety students kept onlookers off the track and audio-video, technology and film students handled recording as well as photography.
The graphic design program actually designed the cars, Amerman said, and consulted with the racing teams to determine what the final car would look like. The students brought color wheels and let the teams choose a theme, then created the vinyl wrap for the cars.
Mary Saunders, who worked on the “Purple Rain,” said her team had to scrap a few design ideas before they arrived at the final product. The other guys wanted to include a lion, a galaxy theme and money she said. The final product scrapped the money aspect and featured a purple lion flying through space. Saunders said she is happy with the outcome, it is really special and different.
Saunders also said she has enjoyed the entire process and it really displays everything there is to do at Rome High School. One of her favorite elements was students of different ages and backgrounds hanging out and talking about the derby.
“I don’t even know some of these kids,” she said. “People think Rome High is a bad school and nothing good happens here, but they are wrong.”
Students and staff took notes during the derby so to improve on the event next year. Warren said physics students would be studying the event and making notes on what can be improved.
The winning car from Friday’s derby will be on display in the Rome High School front office.