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Hopewell High's Ron Engle Wins National Dragster Design Competition


Note: The following originally appeared in the September 10, 2003 issue of Lake Norman Times in Mooresville, N.C., and is posted with permission.

By Leah Davis

Ron Engle - High School CO2 Champion Ron Engle's first word was "car." Perhaps that was a sign of things to come. In June, he took first place in the Technology Student Association's national dragster design competition.

"I always liked racing," the Hopewell High School sophomore said.

"He's been drawing and designing cars since he could pick up a pencil," mom Margo Selvig added.

While in the eighth grade, Engle started studying technology under middle school teacher Gene Hawkins. That year, his dragster won regionals and took second place at state.

It was the first time any of Hawkins' students had reached the state level of competition, and he had taught for 20 odd years.

This year, Engle made his way to the national competition held in Orlando, Fla. Students numbering more than 4,000 came from across the United States and a handful of other countries to see how their skills measured up.

In the high school dragster design competition sponsored by Pitsco, Engle's car raced against 89 others.
Metallica
See this car's specs.
Sixteen became finalists, and his topped them all. The cars were judged not only on their performance in the races but also on appearance, blueprints and performance in a wind tunnel.

Engle created more than 60 cars before choosing the one he wanted to run. He spent hundreds of hours and more than $1,000 perfecting the design.

Every part Engle carefully crafted by hand (some competitors buy pre-made units). He created the dragster mostly in a makeshift shop based out of his home's garage; however, Penske allowed him to use its specialized machinery when needed.

The final result weighed 50 grams its main element, balsa wood, is extremely light. Engle named the dragster Metallica, descriptive of the vehicle's sleek blue color that Engle created with 20 coats of clear gloss.

Engle also helped a neighbor, Bryant Walker, build a car. That one took second place in the national middle school design dragster competition after performing best out of 144 entrants.

After returning home from Orlando, the families took the boys' teachers (Hawkins taught Bryant, while Jean Beacham taught Engle) to dinner. Selvig plans to give packets of photos to all those who similarly inspired her son over the years.

After graduating from high school and college, Engle wants to design and build racecars. It looks like the 15-year-old is off to a fast start.






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