Glidden-Ralston eighth-grade students (from left) Haley Onken, Courtney Hilleshiem and Madison Robbins and industrial technology teacher Ron Bentz react as small carbon dioxide-powered wooden cars fly across the gym during a class project Wednesday.
Glidden-Ralston eighth-grade students (from left) Haley Onken, Courtney Hilleshiem and Madison Robbins and industrial technology teacher Ron Bentz react as small carbon dioxide-powered wooden cars fly across the gym during a class project Wednesday.

October 28, 2016

If they blinked, they missed it. Glidden-Ralston eighth-graders taking industrial technology classes held carbon dioxide-powered car races in the school gym this week. And those cars were fast.

The problem-solving activity required students to follow a list of carbon dioxide-powered racing car rules and to determine how to make their cars as light and aerodynamic as possible, which translated into speed.

It’s just one of several hands-on projects students complete in industrial technology teacher Ron Bentz’s classes — earlier this year, they built bridges while learning about engineering.

Grouped in the school gym Wednesday, the students set up the track and soon had their cars racing after smoothing out a few glitches, including tangled fishing line.

The materials: small, wooden cars the students needed to make as aerodynamic, lightweight and fast as possible. One class could use only the materials in a kit, while others could order different wheels, axles and other parts to make the cars lighter and faster.

The track: 65 feet in the school gym, with start and finish gates, digital time clocks, launch pads, 8-gram carbon-dioxide cartridges to power the cars, two fishing-line lanes to keep the cars in line — and wadded-up towels at the end to keep the cars from flying into walls or people.

The times: Most cars made the trek in less than 2 seconds — some completed the job in less than 1 second.

The stakes: The rewarding feeling of knowing you had the fastest carbon dioxide-powered car.

And the students had a little fun, too, while they were at it.

“What was my time?” called out eighth-grader Haley Onken, unable to believe the results. “WHAT?”

Later, upon discovering whom she would be matched up with for her next race, she bemoaned, “I’m gonna lose.”

Then, while watching two of her peers prepare to race: “Oh, this is gonna be heated.”

After one race, Brandon Brincks celebrated: “Yes! Mine didn’t break!”

“I’m not in 21st place anymore!” crowed eighth-grader Courtney Hilleshiem as students closed the gaps in their times and some pulled ahead.

And they kept things scientific.

“I’ll tell you how close you were in CO2 terms,” Bentz said when comparing two students’ results.

The double-elimination race allowed only the best, fastest cars — and the ones that didn’t break — to rise to the top.

The modified car winner was Kim Daily; her best time was 0.651 second, which translates to a little more than 67 mph, Bentz said.

“Kim set the new world record — for a student,” he noted during the race.

The stock car winner was Caedon Messer, whose was 0.987 second — about 45 mph.

“This definitely taught them problem-solving skills,” Bentz said. “They had to do all the research and had to design their own cars — the kit is pretty much a block of wood.”

Some of those cars were in pieces by the end of the day.

But the bragging rights remained.