FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown
Dsc 0134Alan with children Samantha, Kyle and Alex

Scan 20160403 5Help from mom Nona at Derby Downs - 1985

Derby Spotlight - Alan Uhler

Alan Uhler grew up in an engineering family, and while that helped cement his decision to study Civil Engineering, so did the Soap Box Derby. He was able to gain abundant knowledge of physics and mathematical concepts from building and racing his car. These principles, learned through gravity racing, proved to be highly valuable during high school and later in college.

“The Soap Box Derby was for me, and can be for future generations, a key building block to begin developing a multitude of mechanical skills that has helped me in my STEM career,” said Uhler. “Racing had a significant impact on my life and career as it provided technical knowledge which is very valuable in my chosen profession of Civil Engineering.”

Among the many ways the Soap Box Derby helps with STEM, Alan says, “it helps further a school of thought taught to me by my father, in that there is nothing that one cannot do, and when an obstacle is met, find a way around or build a tool to go through.”

Mr. Uhler is a dual licensed registered professional engineer and professional land surveyor. He currently owns and operates a civil engineering and surveying business in Central Pennsylvania which he has owned and managed for the past 17 years. Alan lives and works in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania and is also a local race director for the DuBois Area Soap Box Derby and a Cub Scout Cubmaster for Pack 45.

Alan raced in the Senior Division (predecessor to the Masters division) from 1982-1986 and was able to race in Akron in 1985. His most memorable experience was riding to and from topside and the YMCA camp, where all the racers stayed for the week in those days, in a van with other racers, following a police escort through red lights and all.

While in high school and drawing on some of the skills learned building a Soap Box Derby Car, Alan purchased and restored an antique wooden boat. Along with the boat he and his father also restored a 1947 Stinson, an antique airplane that has been in the family for over 40 years. Alan has his pilot’s license so he can fly almost whenever he wants to.

When he was younger, he never imagined being a leader in the organizations that he spent so much time in. Both the Soap Box Derby and Cub Scouts played a major role in Alan’s life and he attributes learning a lot of his values because of the organizations and his parents. 

Alan believes that, “Soap Box Derby racing teaches sportsmanship, but with that a complete host of values and skills are learned and components of character are developed such as the ability to manage emotions and cope with losses.” As a race director, he wants to help instill these values in future generations and educate racers to always be thankful for their experiences in life. Also during his time as a local race director, he would like to help grow the sport of Derby racing and see the organization get more attention from the youth and in the media.

“While these rolls take time and work and also have their challenges, the only hard part is deciding if I had more fun as a kid or if I am having more fun now,” he said. “If I could still fit in my car, the answer would be easy.

“The Derby provided experiences, memories and friendships that, while I cannot say yet that they last a lifetime, I can say that they last at least 30 years.”

Note: This is the fourth in a series of spotlights on former Derby racers who have gone on to study/work in a STEM related field. If you know of someone who we could spotlight please let us know at soapbox@soapboxderby.org 

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Helping daughter Samantha build her
Masters Car - 2016

Stinson

Alan at the controls of his 1947 Stinson 180-3 airplane