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Race Overview

The actual racing part of the competition is the exciting culmination of the CO2 car project. It’s the moment of truth – when all the hard work of building a dragster becomes evident.

But just because the car is built doesn’t mean that the learning stops. Here, students discover the validity of their design concepts in a way that even prerace testing couldn’t reveal. Some students will want to run directly to the shop to modify their car to squeeze out a little more speed. Some are also careful to observe their classmates’ cars in action and evaluate their designs.

Best of all, the competition is fun!

The Race: How It Works

It’s pretty simple: two cars race side by side over a distance of 20 meters (65 feet, 7.5 inches).

The Launch

The cars are placed in front of the launch pods. When the launch button is pushed, an electronic impulse simultaneously triggers the two launch pods, which in turn activate the steel firing pins that punch small holes in the CO2 cartridges and start the digital timers.

The previously confined liquid CO2 instantly begins to boil and escape from the nozzle. The action-reaction principle takes over, thrusting the cars from the launcher and toward the finish line.

Down the Track

As the cars zoom toward the finish line, each is prevented from flying off the track by a strand of monofilament line. The line is threaded through the screw eyes mounted on the underside of the car body.

The Finish

As the cars pass through the finish gate, they break two infrared light beams, stopping the digital timers (this is true of digital launch systems, not mechanical systems where a person with a stopwatch is required to get a race time). The system captures and displays the times to the nearest thousandth of a second and uses flashing lights to indicate the winner’s lane.

Carefully folded and placed towels decelerate the cars after they cross the finish line.


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