FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Derby Spotlight - Kristi Murphy

2006 Cleveland Champ2006 Cleveland Champ

Kristi Murphy knew very early in life that she wanted to be involved with STEM. Characteristics that describe Kristi include being detail-oriented, results driven, and a love to solve problems. Among many other things, Soap Box Derby racing helped fuel Kristi’s desire to go to college and major in a field that included STEM. She enjoyed tinkering with tools while working on her Soap Box Derby car and finding innovative ways to increase the speed of the car.

Racing helped cement the idea of engineering for Kristi because she liked the hands on atmosphere. She enjoyed solving problems and making the adjustments on her car that needed to be done on race days, decisions that needed to be made quickly but effectively as well. Kristi truly loved the decision making process involved with racing and the trial and error of making adjustments on her car.

Murphy graduated in 2015 from the University of Dayton with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Bioengineering. The industrial scale of chemistry involved with Chemical Engineering peaked her interests and she had other interests in the mechanics and chemistry of the human body which led her to the minor.

She participated in all four Soap Box Derby racing divisions throughout her racing career (Stock from 1999-2006; Super Stock from 2007-2008; Masters from 2008-2009; Ultimate Speed from 2010-2015). Kristi was able to qualify for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship race in every division, including her first trip to Akron in the Stock Division in 2004. She can still remember coming down the hill for the first time and having everyone watching. She also remembers feeling truly lucky to be here and also extremely nervous to race. She won the World Championship in the Ultimate Speed division in 2014 and again in 2015.

"I learned how to be a competitor and how to handle the emotions that come with winning and losing in a respectable manner,” said Kristi. “Racing also helped me to stay focused and calm my nerves, but the biggest lesson that racing taught me was being a good sportsman.”

Now, Kristi works as a Process Engineer for International Paper and is instrumental in developing cost reduction techniques for the mill. She enjoys the manufacturing environment she is involved in and that every day she works with something different. Kristi is excited being out in the field and learning about all the different processes in the mill. Her main responsibilities include working with the Lean and Six Sigma projects to eliminate waste within the mill, which helps lower the costs of doing business. She says, “I am not in a specific operations department (Paper, Pulp, and Power) which allows me to work on projects throughout the mill.”  

Kristi sees herself staying connected with the Soap Box Derby and would like to volunteer for a race local where she lives. She says, “I would like to give back to a sport that impacted my life so much.”

Note: This is the fifth 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 

Kristi Murphy

2014 Ultimate Speed World Champion


  Kristi Murphy (near left) - Ultimate Speed Racing