The 2021 Central Ohio Soap Box Derby season recently began with “Test Drive Fun Days” held on Derby Hill in Big Run Park in Columbus.
Columbus Soap Box Derby organizers are happy to hold the 76th running of the local event that qualifies teams to compete at the National event held later this summer in Akron. For the first time since 1961, organizers had to cancel the 2020 race due to COVID. This year’s field of entrants will include two Delaware youngsters – Maureen Nafula and David Mauser. They will be racing in cars sponsored by The Evening Kiwanis Club of Delaware.
Nafula and Mauser are both 7th graders at Dempsey Middle School and are both on the school’s lacrosse team. After school, they are also part of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Technology) Club at Unity Community Center in Delaware.
When asked about his two competing members, Taj Bakare said, “Choosing two students from our middle-school group was very cumbersome … because everyone raised their hands. Our STEAM Club students, including Maureen and David, have always been enthusiastic to learn and tackle anything new.”
On Saturday they got a feel for what it was like to drive a derby car for the first time along with other youngsters from the Central Ohio area. Their test drives even had them competing in adjacent lanes and will add to the sense of competition as Nafula and Mauser try to outmaneuver one another to edge the other out by what may be only a matter of seconds.
Both students got to observe and put into action what they had learned at STEAM Club. Advisor Bakare indicated this opportunity to race really came in handy as “it is a hands-on activity of what the students have learned during our STEAM class about ‘Newton’s Second Law of Motion’ which states that when a constant force acts on a massive body, it causes it to accelerate.”
Evening Kiwanis Club President, Judy Domire, attended “Test Drive Days” and shared that “Seeing the smiles on David and Maureen’s faces after their first run down the track was great. We wish them a fun and rewarding experience.”
Organizers of the race indicated that the number of girls participating has increased over the years and shared that they often end up passing the boys in their derby cars. When asked why she wanted to drive one of the STEAM Club derby cars, Nafula said it was “because it would be something new for me to try and it would teach me about how science is involved in this sport.”
This is the first-year members of the Unity Community Center’s STEAM Club have been able to compete in this event. Unity Community Center is a corporate member of the Kiwanis Club and members thought it was a no-brainer to sponsor several derby cars to help support the STEAM program.
Adviser Bakare has been able to incorporate many of the educational materials provided by the International Soap Box Derby program posts on its website for STEM/STEAM programs across the country.
Both student drivers are excited about racing and Mauser summed this experience up when he said, “I would love for my fellow STEAM classmates to compete because it is really fun and I know some of them love racing … I am really hoping to win also.”
The next step for the young racers will be to have their race cars “fitted to them” with minor adjustments made to the steering and brake mechanisms as needed. The final adjustment will be the adding of weights to the car to bring the weight of car and driver to a standard maximum weight of 240 pounds. Properly weighted cars can go upward of 30 miles per hour down the track.
Next time behind the wheels for Nafula and Mauser will be “Rally Race Days” on April 24 and 25 with the final championships scheduled for May 8 at Derby Hill to determine which cars and racers go on to Nationals in Akron. Family members, Kiwanians and any others are encouraged to come watch and cheer on the Delaware racers as they gather on Derby Hill for the fun and excitement of the next events.