FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


University of Akron Partners with Soap Box Derby to Present Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition

Csb Engineering1c

University of Akron President Matthew J. Wilson today announced that UA’s College of Engineering is partnering with the Soap Box Derby on its Gravity Racing Challenge (GRC) STEM Team Competition. The College has been named the presenting sponsor of the competitions held in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Marysville, Ohio.

“This is a collaboration we believe will help more students not only become proficient in STEM subjects, but also excited about them,” said UA President Wilson.

In 2016, 166 teams of students in grades 3-12 participated in the Akron GRC STEM Team Competition, which is the Derby’s education-based STEM initiative that aims to engage students in critical skills including project-based learning, problem solving, critical thinking, life and career skills, measurable outcomes and experiential learning. Students work in classroom and after school settings to build a Soap Box Derby car to race in the competition.

“We look forward to exposing more students to our STEM-based education programs through our collaboration,” said Soap Box Derby Vice President Bobby Dinkins. “We’ve partnered with the College of Engineering on several projects recently and feel this is a perfect fit because so many of the kids who become involved with Soap Box Derby racing are future engineers.”

In addition to being the presenting sponsor of the GRC races the University of Akron College of Engineering will match scholarships awarded to the champions of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby in 2017-2019, provided they attend The University of Akron and major in engineering.

The new partnership is a continuation of an ongoing relationship between the SBD and UA’s College of Engineering. In 2015, the National Science Foundation awarded a $750,000 grant to UA’s College of Engineering and Lebron James Family Foundation College of Education, SBD and Akron Public Schools (APS) to formally design, integrate and evaluate the impact of curriculum around the Soap Box Derby Mini-Cars. As part of that project, called Zipping Towards STEM, senior engineering students at UA worked with APS eighth-grade teachers in the classroom to help reinforce the engineering design process and technical content associated with the Mini-Cars project.

The College of Engineering will also place three teams of UA freshmen in the Soap Box Derby’s new pilot collegiate engineering design challenge. These teams will build cars and then compete against other colleges in the first year of this new Derby initiative.

“A student participating and excelling in the GRC is someone we think would be attracted to engineering and STEM careers in the future”, said Donald Visco, interim dean of UA’s College of Engineering.  “I can imagine those students, several years from now, going to school at The University of Akron and participating in one of our many award-winning student design teams, such as the Formula race car team, NASA robotics team, our Akronauts rocket team or the many other teams and organizations within engineering that span our disciplines, whether engineering or STEM.”