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Design, Build, Race, and Repeat

Winning isn’t easy. Just ask David Woodruff. He knows because he won the middle school dragster event at the Technology Student Association Conference on June 29.

David, a 7th grader at Louise R. Johnson Middle School in Bradenton, FL, said, “My project took a lot of time and a lot of work. I spent hours milling them out and hours sanding them down with 1,000-grit paper.”

“Stay steadfast and just keep working. Even if you have one failure, the next one might be a victory.”

Two other students from Johnson Middle School have won the event the past two years (Hayden Kenelly in 2013 and Merritt Kendzior in 2012), and he certainly felt the pressure to continue the winning tradition. Tempting as it may have been to mimic the designs of the previous champs, David was determined to win his own way.

According to advisor Susanne Jerrell, “I was impressed because he thought outside the box . . . He didn’t do traditional stuff.” Jerrell went on to say that David experimented with many design ideas, some successful and some not. When asked how many cars he built, he said, “I only made 21.” Each new car was tested on the track. Based on the track performance, he made small or large design changes to his next car.

Jerrell believes that the failures contributed to his success. His entry for the Florida TSA event was disqualified due to a minor specifications issue. “He worked harder because he was so upset he got disqualified.”

David’s knowledge and skill grew from the untold hours of designing, building, racing, and repeating. According to Hollis Bostic, Technology Education Instructor at Johnson Middle School, “I really think he’s come a long way with his knowledge of SolidWorks and his designing and engineering has been phenomenal.”

His journey led him to the bullet-style car pictured above. David actually brought two race-ready cars to the conference and agonized over which one to enter. It’s hard to question his choice at this point.

David offers the following advice to aspiring CO2 racers: “Stay steadfast and just keep working. Even if you have one failure, the next one might be a victory.” The process was hard work, but also very rewarding: “It’s lots of fun. I think other people should do it, too.”

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