Students compete in radio-controlled race car event

Published 5:14 pm Friday, January 24, 2014

Engineering students steer their radio-controlled cars around the track at a NASCAR Student Racing Challenge at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center on Friday.

Engineering students steer their radio-controlled cars around the track at a NASCAR Student Racing Challenge at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center on Friday.

Friday was “race day” for dozens of engineering students from schools in Chilton County and all over Alabama.

Shortly after 8 a.m., students from the LeCroy Career Technical Center’s STEM Academy and other high schools gathered at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center for a NASCAR Ten80 Student Racing Challenge.

The event consisted of seven teams racing radio-controlled cars they constructed and giving separate presentations on their team’s history, budget, marketing and project management.

Two teams from STEM Academy competed against teams from Jemison Middle School, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Chambers County.

“There’s a tremendous amount of space involved,” STEM instructor Jay LeCroy said. “Without the city of Clanton and Jeff State, we wouldn’t be able to do it. Partnerships are very important to us.”

The racecourse was outlined with white vinyl strips and took up about half of the large CPAC exhibition hall.

The goal was for students to keep their cars inside the strips and be the first to complete multiple laps in each race.

“This is like NASCAR,” LeCroy said. “You have race events that you can go to around the Southeast to get points, plus points from monthly challenges.”

Monthly challenges are curriculum-based exercises students complete that are related to the physics of the cars.

STEM Academy’s physics and engineering class was one of 10 programs in the state chosen by the United States Army to participate in the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge last year.

In September, students held time trials in the parking lot behind Clanton City Hall to see who would drive their radio-controlled cars in the first competition, which took place in Newnan, Ga., in October.

Cole Riley, a senior at Maplesville High School, has served as STEM Academy’s team manager from the beginning.

Riley helped deliver the team’s 8-minute presentation to a panel of judges on Friday.

Riley has been in STEM Academy since its formation at the career tech center about two years ago.

“It’s an amazing course, and I encourage everyone to sign up for it,” Riley said.

Technology Student Association state advisor Ben Scheierman attended Friday’s event and said he thought the amount of space in the exhibition hall accommodated robotics students well.

“I wouldn’t mind using it for another VEX event next year,” Scheierman said, referring to another type of robotics event. “It’s an awesome venue—big, flat floors and plenty of room.”

Deputy David Hubbard with the Chilton County Sheriff’s Department and his students from the center’s Public Service Academy provided security during the event.

STEM Academy and PSA students accounted for more than 100 students in attendance.

Others that contributed to Friday’s event included McKinnon Toyota, Peach Park and Chilton County Commission chairman Allen Caton, who offered to display his collection of authentic NASCAR uniforms worn by professional racecar drivers.

“We’ve got this beautiful facility out here that needs to be used,” Clanton City Councilwoman Mary Mell Smith said. “Whatever career tech has out here, it just shows people around the state that we’re here and we’re in the central part of the state.”

LeCroy said his next goal is to form a committee of local volunteers that can help him organize and execute statewide events like the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge.

Volunteers would be assigned to tasks such as judging, timing and scoring.

Anyone interested in helping can contact Jay LeCroy at (205) 280-2920.

“We could start planning a lot of things that could come here that would benefit high school students in Chilton County,” LeCroy said. “I’m trying to put Clanton on the map. We want to host more.”