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How to create your own dragster event

Advice from Duncan organizers and Pitsco
Pitsco's Steve Snider is a veteran with CO2 racing events.

If you’ve followed our stories about the youth engineering contest in Duncan, Oklahoma, you might be wondering what it’d take to start a school or community event like it.

Well, we can help you with that!

Jeannie Bowden, business and industry specialist for the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF), oversees many organizational aspects of the event and mentions several helpful things that can be done in advance.

  1. Contact Steve Snider, Pitsco Technical Support, at 800-835-0686 for CO2 race rules. (Or go to the How-To section of the Science of Speed website for details on the entire racing process, including safety, track setup, rules, and racing brackets (with four downloadable brackets). Note: If you are new to the dragster activity, reviewing the entire How-To section (including Design, Build, and Tune as well as Race) is recommended. These videos are also great for learning the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of CO2 racing.
  2. If possible, watch a competition like Duncan’s to get an understanding of what it’s like.
  3. Develop relationships with the local schools, businesses, and community.

Beyond this, Bowden cautions that there’s a little more to getting this event off the ground and making it successful.

“You can’t just send an email. In this day, we all sit at our desks and fire off emails,” she said, adding that last year she called and made appointments to visit the outlying schools. “I went out and met them, gave them a copy of the rules, showed them a kit, and encouraged them to offer it in class as a grade or at least as extra credit. If they wouldn’t do that, I’d ask them to please just put up the flyer so the students might see it and want to do it – they can do it with their parents.”

Volunteers make the event run smoothly

She emphasizes the importance of legwork, as some schools have iffy Internet service, and teachers might not check their email often or filters could label it as junk mail.

“Last year, when I went to visit all of those teachers, what I found out was that some of them had never gotten my emails.”

Lyle Ruggow, DAEDF president, says not to expect a massive turnout the first year – it takes time to build an event. The youth engineering contest only had 17 dragster entries its first year, but had more than 300 in 2015.

“Starting off small is fine,” he said. “It will grow. Start small and find the right people to participate. I’m trying to fill a pipeline, a void, in our community with CNC machining, so that’s the reason I thought this was a good activity.”

Bowden said not to overlook homeschools, which often participate. As for encouraging different schools to join, she thinks school rivalries actually help, because students who play football or compete in other activities might enjoy extending the friendly rivalry to an event such as this.

Tammy Bennett, a Duncan Middle School STEM teacher, said she believes Duncan’s supportive atmosphere can work elsewhere.

“I would think that if anybody in other communities asked for help, they would get it,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that this is just Duncan, but I know our engineers really step up on this one.”

Lack of tools, equipment, and funding are the big hurdles Bennett faces for this endeavor, which is where community support helps. Creative funding is necessary in a lot of districts or states that have cut back.

“Most of my funding right now is from Oklahoma Career Tech,” she said, adding that she also receives support from  the community.

For those interested in but unfamiliar with the activity, there are a number of resources available including the Science of Speed website. For more formal instruction, check out the two STEM Units (comprising one quarter) of the Science of Speed 2 curriculum.

By PJ Graham, web content specialist