Paul Wollenberg, his wife Kathy, and their two daughters, Macey and Cady, live in Purcell, Oklahoma. Wollenberg is the Technology Education teacher for Purcell Junior High. Purcell schools have been familiar to Wollenberg for some time. A 1992 alum of Purcell High School, Wollenberg has been teaching in the district for 10 years. He also advises the Purcell Junior High TSA chapter and coaches junior high football, high school basketball, and high school baseball at Purcell.
During his senior year of high school, Wollenberg designed and built his first CO2 car. He tells his students how he didn’t have most of the tools that they use. Wollenberg’s CO2 car was built using a table saw, a 25-year-old band saw, files, and rasps.
“My car finished second in the class, but it gave me a good background for designing and building CO2 cars,” Wollenberg said.
“There are so many choices that can be made in the design and fabrication of CO2 cars. I like to tell students once you follow a few specifications and guidelines, there are no wrong answers,” says Wollenberg. “There may be some that have a better solution than others, but every design they create is correct. I believe this gives a student a great deal of confidence. I hope they can take those success in my class and transfer it to other classes and real-life situations.”
One of Wollenberg’s favorite memories of teaching CO2 dragster design was the 2005 National Conference in Chicago. His student, Lane Howard, had designed a car with magnetic axles to help reduce drag. When the team left Oklahoma they packed their dragster and headed toward Chicago. That night when they checked the dragster they discovered the heat and humidity had caused the paint to smear.
“I can still see the look of disappointment on his face,” said Wollenberg.
After a late-night trip to Home Depot, Howard repainted the dragster in the hotel parking lot. His hard work paid off when his dragster won second place at nationals.
For Wollenberg, the best part of teaching dragster design is when students experiment with ways to put their creativity and ingenuity to use. To inspire his students, he has created a “Wall of Fame.”
“Once they see those cars on the wall, they say, ‘I can do that’ or ‘I can make one better than that one,’” says Wollenberg. “They also are much honored when they are asked to place their car on the Wall of Fame.”
Wollenberg says that students’ imaginations are the only limit on what they can do.
“We need to continue to push the envelope and have students try new concepts, ideas, and materials. These are the future designers and engineers.”