First place: Sophomore Kilynn McKenzie
Second place: Junior Alexis Jackson
Third place: Seventh grader Felicity Ballard
From left to right: Franklin County Career and Technical Center Robotics and Engineering instructor Dexter Wilson sets up dragsters for a race as junior Kamryn Day and sophomore Lillian Hutton watch.
A grant obtained by two Franklin County Career and Technical Center (FCCTC) employees allowed female students to learn more about STEM through the creation and racing of model cars this year.
Dexter Wilson, who teaches Robotics and Engineering, and Student Support Services Coordinator Leigh Ann Bein applied for and won a nontraditional CTE participation grant for the academic year, and the $3,000 prize allowed them to purchase materials for students to create dragsters and a racetrack.
The center, along with the Franklin County Middle School, chose to support the robotics grant as a way to get more female students into STEM-related activities and classes. Administrators encouraged girls to sign up and work with Wilson, who taught them aerodynamics and other sciences behind dragster racing.
Specifically, Wilson covered how carbon dioxide (CO2) cannister-propelled dragsters may be small, but they achieve high speeds when racing. The dragsters are subject to an expansive variety of forces that affect motion and velocity. Gravity, thrust, drag, lift, friction and weight were some of the principal forces discussed. The students learned how a wind tunnel works to help scientists understand how the wind moves around different shapes. They also learned how a CO2 cartridge works to thrust the dragster forward.
The students predicted which predesigned car out of four designs would be the winner, chose a design and color and then personalized the details on their selected cars. A large amount of glitter was involved in the process.
Due to the school’s hybrid schedule, the actual race took two days. Inga Lehman, a 2003 graduate of Franklin County High School and female roadway engineer working with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, sent well wishes to the Dragster Queens via video. The track was set up on the stage in the auditorium, and students squealed with delight and amazement as their cars sped to the finish line.
Each heat had race times recorded, and the racers moved through the brackets. The first-place winner was Kilynn McKenzie, second place went to Alexis Jackson and Felicity Ballard secured third place.
The Robotics and Engineering class will continue using the track for its own dragster racing and in years to come for Technology Student Association competitions. Students will design dragsters from scratch and race at the regional, state and national levels.
The Robotics and Engineering class would like to thank Lisa Storey and Terry Moffett for allowing and encouraging their students to participate in this event. Wilson and Bein said they are thankful for leaders who see the potential and appreciate the excitement of students learning in nontraditional ways.