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Middle School Champ Braden Kellogg – A Student of the Racetrack

Braden Kellogg
From left, teacher Danny Pruett, Harvey Dean – CEO of Pitsco, and Braden Kellogg

To some, it may seem like a curious collection of disparate materials – a 12” long wedge-shaped block of balsa, four plastic wheels, two short 1/8” diameter metal rods, four brass washers, two small screw eyes, and a 8-gram CO2 cartridge.

But put these materials in the capable hands of Braden Kellogg, eighth grader from Oolagah Middle School, and they will be transformed into a champion CO2 dragster. Braden built the dragster that won the 2011 middle school Dragster Challenge at the national Technology Student Association Conference in Dallas, Texas. The yellow and black-striped car – dubbed Bumblebee – started life as the simple materials described above.

Dragster Kit

It’s the journey from raw materials to the championship that is a compelling story – how Braden’s own qualities enabled him to develop into a champ. The champion car was actually the third car that Braden built during the school year. He’d competed with one car in a classroom competition, built a second car for the Oklahoma state TSA event, and built a final car to take to Dallas in June.

Braden used each race as a learning opportunity. You see, a racetrack always tells the truth – but one has to pay close attention the lessons it provides. He observed cars built by competitors – some were faster than his own – and made mental notes as to what he believed made their cars perform well. He then assimilated some of the competitors’ design attributes into his next dragster.

Bumblebee

Braden’s information quest wasn’t limited to race day. According to Danny Pruett, his teacher and TSA advisor, Braden asked dozens of questions at each stage of design and construction, absorbing information like a sponge. All of his newfound knowledge was applied directly to his next car design. Pruett said Braden was “meticulous in every detail,” considering how to optimize with each step of the process. Braden says achieving balance is critical – “You can’t just focus on one thing.”

According to Pruett, building three cars in a year is a low number, at least for a national champ. But Braden’s careful, inquisitive approach; his willingness to seize every learning opportunity available; and his successful application of knowledge enabled him to progress more quickly than many students.

The next time he begins to work with those simple materials, he’ll be building upon his already formidable knowledge base. One has to wonder – what sort of lessons will Braden teach others on the racetrack?