“I think the momentum builds up all year as they work on their cars,” said race director Devan Seabaugh. “It’s a good opportunity for them to do something with their parents and it all culminates into today’s race.”
Children ages 7 to 17 from north Georgia competed in two divisions based on weight and age. Racers ordered kits to assemble their own cars, which average four to six hours to complete. The race track begins with a 4-foot high ramp, where cars are launched down a 500-foot slope. Speeds approach 30 mph.
“There was an opening at my dad’s work and he asked me if I wanted to do it,” said derby newcomer Carlee Webb, 11. “I said, ‘Yes.’ I just thought it would be fun.”
Carlee’s father, David, works for Marietta-based Croy Engineering. While it helps to be an engineer to assemble a soap box car, such a task falls under mechanical engineering, he said. His company specializes in civil engineering.
“We haven’t really been exposed to it before, but we like it,” David Webb said of the event.
Because soap box cars are similar in design, the advantage typically goes to drivers who can quickly figure out where the speeding impediments are on the track, such as dips and cracks.
However, gravity is the most significant factor in downhill racing.
Twelve students from the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics learned that lesson as pilot participants in Masters of Gravity, a multimedia educational program for fifth and sixth graders, produced by Western Reserve PBS, which uses soap box car racing to teach math and science.
“It teaches the principles of gravity, geometry and Newton’s Laws,” said math teacher Elaine Reisenauer.
“It allows the children to build models of the soap box derby cars and to test the principles of weight, speed, acceleration and etcetera. Then they test sample cars down ramps, before they actually come out and build the soap box derby car together.”
Four of the 12 program participants received the opportunity to race in Saturday’s derby after writing essays about why they wished to participate. Those students were Andy Chinuntdet, Sam Judd, Ethan Harper and Jordan Mercure.
“It awesome,” 11-year-old Andy said after winning one of his first three races. “Honestly, I can’t believe I won. I’ve never done this before and some of these people have been doing this for three or four years.”
In December, Hollywood actor Corbin Bernsen visited Marietta to promote his recent soap box derby movie called “25 Hill” at a special expo conducted by the Marietta Soap Box Derby. The movie is expected to be released on DVD on July 3.
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Masters of the Derby