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Derby Spotlight - James Fell

James Fell Masters Rally Champ 20102010 Rally Masters Champ

James Fell was watching a movie when he was five years old where the Soap Box Derby® was featured. He begged his parents for three years to participate and finally started racing when he was eight. “It is funny how something of interest to a five year old could lead to a STEM education and career in aviation,” Fell stated.

James began racing in 2003 in the Stock division, and then later he moved to the Super Stock and Masters divisions as he got older. James finished racing in the Derby in 2010 but was involved in helping establish a Soap Box Derby club at his high school, which participated in the first Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition.

Fell will be a senior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) this fall finishing a Bachelor of Aviation degree. His major is Aviation Maintenance with a specialty in Safety. After graduation he would like to work with a major airline managing their safety and maintenance programs. “I have always loved taking things apart and putting them back together again. I also have a pilot license and love flying airplanes. My major combines these two interests.

“Through the Soap Box Derby, I learned about the science of aerodynamics, speed, gravity and friction--all concepts that apply to the science of flight, piloting an aircraft and building airplanes,” said Fell.  “Soap Box Derby racing gave me an outlet for my interest in mechanics and enabled me to experiment and apply scientific concepts so I could see the results each week when racing. After every race, I would analyze the race results and apply what I learned to the next race,” he added.

Fell still stays in contact with some of his Derby friends and he looks forward to seeing them when he goes home for college breaks. He says that seeing the parents of racers is just as fun as seeing the friends he raced. “Even though my Derby friends come from all over, we had the same interest in building and racing Derby cars, which made us close friends and the mutual interest will never die,” said Fell.

For James, the most memorable moments racing in the Derby were winning the Top Gun race in 2009, placing 4th at the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship in 2010, and traveling to North Carolina for their Thanksgiving races.

Note: This is the sixth 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