FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown





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AKRON, Ohio (Jan. 10, 2023) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has signed a bill that designates the Soap Box Derby as the state’s “official gravity racing program.”

         House Bill 423 was sponsored by Akron area House of Representatives members Bill Roemer and Bob Young and was introduced in May 2022.  Following review and approval by the House State and Local Government committee, the bill was approved by the full House on May 25 and passed on to the Senate.  The Ohio Senate approved the bill in mid-December and Gov. DeWine signed it into law on January 2.

            Signing of the bill by the House last May coincided with the day that House members honored more than 100 Ohio boys and girls who had participated in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby and the Gravity Racing Challenge STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) team championships.

           “The Soap Box Derby organization is truly honored to receive the state’s gravity racing designation,” said Mark Gerberich, president and chief executive officer of International Soap Box Derby, Inc. (ISBD).  “We are extremely grateful for the support of House members Roemer and Young, as well as educators who helped us share the educational importance of Soap Box Derby participation to the legislators who were considering this bill.” 

           “Soap Box Derby racing sowed its roots in Ohio, more specifically Akron, and it has been a pleasure to carry this legislation designating the Derby as the official gravity-racing program of the State of Ohio,” said Rep. Roemer (District 31). “The Derby is an integral part of the community, creating an educational, economic and social boost for the area and those involved.”          

            During the bill’s review by House and Senate committees, there was in-person testimony by Gerberich, Jeff Iula, president of the Akron Area Soap Box Derby organization and Michael Farren, technology educator at Barberton (Ohio) High School.  

            Written testimony in support of the bill was provided by Dr. Joanne Caniglia, professor of education at Kent State University; Dr. Donald Visco, professor of engineering at the University of Akron; Tim Stults, technology educator at Barberton Middle School; Dick Dieffenderfer, director of the Ohio Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and Linda Hubbell, ISBD Education Director.


About the Soap Box Derby

               The International Soap Box Derby® is a non-profit youth education and leadership development organization whose mission is to build knowledge and character, and to create meaningful experiences through fair and honest racing competitions, STEM curriculums, and other community-focused activities. The Derby’s Core Values and Drivers include Youth Education and Leadership Development; Family Engagement and Enrichment; Honesty, Integrity, and Perseverance; Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Teamwork and Collaboration; Mentoring; Volunteerism; and Commitment to Community. The Derby’s two youth initiatives are the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby racing program and the STEM-based Education Program, which provides educational opportunities for K-12 youth worldwide through Soap Box Derby racing. The Derby dates back to 1934, when the first All-American race was held in Dayton, Ohio. For more information, visit