FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Derby Spotlight - Michael Gallo

Parade 1988Michael GalloMike Sarah 1983Michael And Sister Sarah - 1983

Derby Spotlight - Michael Gallo

When Michael Gallo was young he loved projects associated with math and science and always realized the importance of STEM in everyday life. He showed an interest in engineering through his love of tinkering with cars and working around his house with his father. He also found the challenge of fixing broken appliances and learning how they functioned fascinating.

Another fascination that Michael had was Soap Box Derby® racing. In particular, he wanted to know how to build a car and make it go fast. He started racing at the age of 10, in the junior division. His father and uncle both raced from 1958-1960. Michael raced in the Junior Division until he was 12 years old and then the Masters Division until the age of 15 along with his sisters out of Danbury, Conn.   

In a family full of Soap Box Derby racers, Michael struck gold in 1985 when he became the first member of his family to be crowned World Champion when he won the Junior Division at the All-American Soap Box Derby at Derby Downs in Akron, Ohio. It was a memorable day for the Gallo family as Michael became the oldest champ, at age 12, to win the Junior Division title.

 “Everyone dreams of just making it to Akron, and I was no different,” said Gallo. “I had no expectations to win one race let alone the entire race. One of my most vivid memories after winning was when the crew put my car on a trailer and brought us to the finish line. I was just looking around for my parents and when I turned around there was this huge wall of photographers taking my picture.”

Gallo’s Derby experience was the launching pad for him choosing the career path engineering. “I was really good at constructing and working with math and measurements related to racing, so choosing to pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree seemed natural,” Gallo said. “There are many aspects of science and math in racing and since I had fun learning about STEM with my father and other racers, it just felt like a natural fit.”

At first, Michael thought that being an auto mechanic was the right direction for his career, but realized that an engineering position was more in line with his passion. He obtained a degree in Automotive Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology from Vermont Technical College and upon graduation began working in the engineering field and eventually landed a job at Belimo as a Manufacturing Engineer. Belimo builds actuators that are used for commercial use in HVAC systems. 

Gallo can also add the title of “inventor” to his resume. He is the owner of two patents (#7,353,673 & #7,543,468) that are related to each other. The first is for a locking mechanism that to open you just put the key into the lock. The key does not need to be twisted.  This design is based on the Americans with Disability Act and is a way for handicap people to open a lock without having to twist the key.  The second is the same design but used specifically in a school locker.

Currently, Gallo is studying Mechanical Engineering at The University of New Haven in Connecticut. Now as he is finishing his second degree, he wants to use his knowledge of STEM to work on other ventures at his job and life at home. Gallo has worked on several other projects that relate back to his racing years and what he experienced while building and testing his cars.

His passion for racing has been passed down to his two sons, Ryan and Derek. Both are Derby racers, becoming the third generation of Gallo’s to race.

The Derby also influenced other aspects of Gallo’s life. ”Learning how to be a good sport and how to always congratulate your opponent no matter if you won or lost was a valuable lesson learned through my Derby experiences,” said Gallo. “The Derby also taught me how to compete and always try to improve, but to also have fun at the same time. I was also able to meet so many different people through my Derby experiences, which allowed me to make lasting friendships within the community.”

Note: This is the second 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 

1985 Michael Gallo

Championship Heat - 1985 Junior Division

Past Spotlight Features
Nicole Stout - Spotlight (January, 2016)


Michael Gallo And His Son Ryan 2

Michael And Son Ryan

Micheal Gallo And His Son Derek 2

Michael And Son Derek