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Eighth Graders Study STEM for Race Car Bragging Rights

Technology Students Compete in Annual School Derby


Student prepares to launch racer    Student winners and staff members


Eighth grade students at Jefferson Academic Center recently held their annual Technology Race Car Derby. This year, wooden racers, which each student was required to build, were launched through a track using a super-sized rubber band. The car that traveled the farthest won the championship. Jefferson Academic Center is an Eastern Suffolk BOCES middle school that provides special education services to students with special needs.


a partially finished car on a work table    Derby cars and tracks before the race


Technology Teacher Ramesh Nathai provided everyone with identical materials (one block of wood, two axles, four wheels), and taught them about traction, aerodynamics, and elasticity. Students turned to math and science to adapt the technology they found in their research. For example, they studied the technology behind real cars to better understand how to engineer a wooden racer. Participants built their cars with hand and power tools, and used the design process, a problem-solving method employed by engineers everywhere, to overcome flaws. Additionally, Nathai incorporated character building into the project to promote good sportsmanship.


Through trial-and-error during the test run, each student discovered how far to stretch the rubber band. Because the cars are different weights and shapes, they handled differently and some even toppled over if the band was over extended. “There is nothing better than learning while having a good time,” said Nathai. “The Tech Derby has quickly become an eighth-grade landmark occasion.”