FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Derby Spotlight - Bob Ballard


Derby Spotlight – Bob Ballard

Robert Ballard

Robert Ballard being interviewed after winning Championship

Bob Ballard was born to be an engineer. The moment he set foot on the Derby track his fate was aligned. Even at a young age, Bob found that building, designing, testing and engineering Soap Box Derby cars intrigued him. His racing lead him to attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute to obtain a degree in mechanical engineering; a second degree in electrical engineering would soon follow.

In addition to participating in the Soap Box Derby, he was a Boy Scout and earned the honor of Eagle Scout in 1938. Bob participated in Boy Scouts from age 12 and continued his participation until college. In college, he was a Vice President of his fraternity, ATO. Since he was interested in design and robotics from an early age, the choice to become an engineer was simple.

If we take a step back, Bob Ballard began Derby racing in 1937 in Local White Plains, New York. Apart from winning the 1937 Local World Race, rolling down the hill was his most memorable detail of the Derby. Other than Bob, his brother also participated in the Soap Box Derby in 1939 where he came in second place. Their father was a huge support and influence during their years of involvement in the Derby. If it wasn’t for him, Bob mentioned, he would not have won. It was a building experience, literally, between father and son—the chance to build something together lead to something far greater in Bob’s future. Furthermore, the Debry also taught Bob vast communication skills so he could become confident speaking with people of all ages. Communication, if anything, is the most important skill when entering the workforce. Becoming a celebrity of sorts through his knowledge and experience of the Derby was exciting for Bob; his hope is that more publicity surrounds the Derby in the future.

Looking at Bob’s professional career as an engineer, he was a draftsman for General Motors where he worked at styling new cars. His career included working on hood ornaments, interiors and headlights for Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Cadillac and Pontiac vehicles. This was especially exciting for Bob since he had access to the car studios meaning he was up-to-date on all the new car designs coming out. Bob has 5 children and currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri. Even though Bob is retired, we hope his story inspires other youth to pursue an exciting career in a fast-growing STEM field.


Note: This is the twenty 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

Past Spotlight Features

Nicole Stout - Spotlight (January 2016)

Michael Gallo - Spotlight (February 2016) 

Todd Hinton - Spotlight (March 2016)

Alan Uhler - Spotlight (April 2016)

Kristi Murphy - Spotlight (May 2016)

James Fell - Spotlight (June 2016)

Michael J. Corson, Jr. - Spotlight (July 2016)

David Reid - Spotlight (August 2016)

John Horner - Spotlight (September 2016)

John Hamels - Spotlight (October 2016)

Kenneth Holmboe - Spotlight (November 2016)

John Menches - Spotlight (December 2016)

Steve Cox - Spotlight (January 2017)

Rachel (Dyer) Samm - Spotlight (February 2017)

Nevin Ream - Spotlight (March 2017)

Trey Knepper - Spotlight (April 2017)

James Yeager - Spotlight (May 2017)

Shannon Hoffman - Spotlight (June 2017)

Jenn Baugher - Spotlight (July 2017)