Middle-school dragster races set for Wednesday

Every year, the eighth-grade science classes create CO2 dragster racers, and once again the time has come. On Wednesday, Linda Johnson’s classes will be competing with dragsters.

“I was looking for a gimmick,” said Johnson about her inspiration for the project. “The teacher before me did rockets and it was very engaging, but I didn’t think I wanted to do that.”

Johnson started the project around 2002, when her daughter attended the school. The project requires a dragster launcher and a photogate timer for the end of the track to record scores — both of which are expensive. It took $1,500 in funds, donated by a parent, to jump-start the project. Each dragster kit, which has to be periodically replaced, cost around that much. All the money for this project has been raised and donated by parent volunteers.

“The first one actually broke on test day and I had to run down the street to the electronics place to have them fix it,” Johnson said. “We went down the second half of first period and were back up by third. It was terrible.”

The races take place in the gym, with a 65-foot fishing-wire track. The students build in pairs, with extra credit awards available in various areas of the project.

“There’s a lot of different ways to win,” Johnson said. “You can win for theme, which attracts a lot of arty kids, paint job, body shape or for speed.”

Allison Clark and Rachel Camacho, now freshmen, won in three out of four categories in their class last year. They won for theme, paint job and speed by recreating the Night Bus from “Harry Potter” with included detachable walls to preserve the aerodynamics for the speed portion.

“It was really rewarding,” Clark said. “We put in at least five hours of work into it. Rachel us also very geared towards science so we were a good pair to accomplish the task.”

By Delaney Gunnell