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University of Akron Partners with Soap Box Derby to present Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition in 2018


University of Akron President Matthew J. Wilson announced that UA’s College of Engineering will continue its partnership with the Soap Box Derby on its Gravity Racing Challenge (GRC) STEM Team Competition. The College is in the second year of a three-year agreement to be the presenting sponsor of the competitions held in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Marysville, Ohio.

In the GRC program, teams of students in grades 3 to 12 work in their classrooms and after-school settings to build Soap Box Derby Cars to race against other school teams.  There are GRC competitions in Ohio, New York, Virginia, Georgia and Texas.  More than 150 school teams are expected to participate in the GRC competition in Akron at Derby Downs on May 17 and 19.

The GRC is the Derby’s education-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) racing initiative that engages students in project-based learning, creative problem solving and team-building.

“We look forward to involving more students in our STEM-based education programs through our collaboration,” said Soap Box Derby President and CEO Mark Gerberich. “We’ve partnered with the University of Akron College of Engineering on several projects and feel this is a perfect fit because so many of the boys and girls who are Soap Box Derby racers are future engineers.”

In addition to sponsoring the GRC races, the University of Akron College of Engineering will match scholarships awarded to the champions of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby in 2018 and 2019, provided the champions attend The University of Akron and major in engineering.

The partnership is a continuation of an ongoing relationship between the SBD and UA’s College of Engineering. In 2015, the National Science Foundation awarded a $750,000 grant to UA’s College of Engineering and Lebron James Family Foundation College of Education, SBD and Akron Public Schools (APS) to formally design, integrate and evaluate the impact of curriculum around the Soap Box Derby Mini-Cars. As part of that project, called Zipping Towards STEM, senior engineering students at UA worked with APS eighth-grade teachers in the classroom to help reinforce the engineering design process and technical content associated with the Mini-Cars project.

The College of Engineering will also have a team of UA freshmen in the Soap Box Derby’s collegiate engineering design challenge. These teams will build cars and then compete against other colleges.

“The University of Akron College of Engineering values the partnership with the Soap Box Derby and the Gravity Racing Challenge,” said Donald Visco, dean of the College of Engineering at The University of Akron.  “Participation in the GRC is a good pathway to consider studying engineering and STEM fields in college.  I can see these students becoming strong contributors to our student design teams, such as the Baja car team, the Formula race car team or any of the engineering design teams that span our disciplines at UA, whether engineering or STEM.”

For more information about the Gravity Racing Challenge STEM Team Competition presented by the University of Akron College of Engineering visit The deadline for school officials to register for 2018 GRC competition is Friday, March 30.