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DuBois Soap Box Derby to Expand Educational Opportunities Through the Bald Eagle School District with Support from the Parent Company of West Penn Power


International Soap Box Derby (ISBD) and the local Soap Box Derby organization in Dubois, Pa.,  which has been instrumental in recent years in returning the youth racing program to Centre County, have joined forces to obtain a $5,000-grant from the FirstEnergy Foundation to implement a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project for fifth graders in the Bald Eagle School District for the 2018-2019 school year.

Soap Box Derby racing has evolved over the past 81 years into a competitive family- oriented sport, but not all children have the opportunity to learn the STEM principles used in construction and racing of full-size Soap Box Derby race cars.  To expand this unique form of racing to a wider range of youth, the ISBD has developed a school curriculum centered on miniature Soap Box Derby Cars. 

The Soap Box Derby’s Mini-Car program involves scale model race cars that are 1/13th the size of full-size Soap Box Derby cars.  The grant will provide necessary materials to enable all fifth graders in the four Bald Eagle elementary schools to participate in the Mini-Car program as part of the district’s existing STEM curriculum.  Included will be instructions for fifth grade teachers and student workbooks, as well as the scale model race cars for youngsters to assemble and table top tracks for racing.  

“Through the Mini-Car in-school program, students will explore basic engineering and physics principles, including force, friction and gravity,” said Tracy Boone, curriculum director for Bald Eagle schools. 

At the completion of the Mini-Car program, all fifth grade students will have the opportunity to participate in an after-school program in which teams of students will build and race full size Soap Box Derby cars through the efforts of the local Soap Box Derby club and many businesses including FirstEnergy, which is the title sponsor of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby program.

“This grant award represents the first time that International Soap Box Derby has partnered with one of our local Derby organizations to seek funding for a local community project,” said Mark Gerberich, president and chief executive officer of ISBD.  “The Mini-Car program helps young boys and girls learn many valuable lessons and skills to carry through their remaining years of school.”          

Alan Uhler, director of the local Dubois Soap Box Derby program, will coordinate the Mini-Car project with the school district. 

“We are very fortunate to have a school district which is open to working with an outside organization to bring this form of racing into the school as an educational tool, as well as the support of FirstEnergy, the parent company of our local power provider West Penn Power, to help make the program possible,” Uhler said.

“The pairing of this All-American sport with a carefully prepared educational curriculum will captivate the attention of the youth and provide the students with some hands-on experience in the principles governing gravity racing,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for these youth, one which in my opinion, as the owner of an engineering firm, is desperately needed to help shape our future generations of technically oriented professionals.”

“We are pleased to support this worthy program to expand the reach of STEM-related programming in schools in our service areas,” said Dee Lowery, president of the FirstEnergy Foundation.  “STEM curriculum helps to build the workforce we need for continued economic growth in the future.”