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The race for relevance

Duncan (Oklahoma) Area Youth Engineering Contest connects CO2 racing with local careers
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Additional Duncan Area Youth Engineering Contest article:

By Patty Cooke, Communications Assistant
pcooke@pitsco.com

There’s just something about watching a product you created fly down a 15-meter racetrack and across the finish line. For the past six years, students participating in the Duncan (Oklahoma) Area Youth Engineering Contest have experienced just such a thrill.

Using Pitsco’s Metric 500 CO2 cars, the contest, put on by the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation (DAEDF), gives students a chance to design and create their own CO2 dragsters. The finished products and design drawings are judged, and then it’s off to the races!

Duncan’s first contest was held in 2008 as a way to get students interested in manufacturing and other STEM careers. “Lyle Roggow, DAEDF president at that time, started the contest after noticing the small number of young people in the manufacturing workforce,” said DAEDF Business & Industry Specialist Jeannie Bowden. “Duncan has a huge number of machine and welding/ fabrication shops that need the skills related to CO2 cars.”

Bowden, who has been running the contest since 2011, oversees contest rules; logistics; the car kits; promotion of the event, including solicitation of sponsors; and the recruitment of teachers, students, and volunteers.

Volunteers, says Bowden, are a very big piece of the puzzle. “We could not do the Duncan Area Youth Engineering Contest without volunteers,” she notes. And one of the many volunteers, Pitsco’s Steve Snider, has been helping from the beginning. “Steve has been instrumental in helping us with rules, organization, and implementation of the contest,” says Bowden. “He helps to guide us.”

And by all accounts, that guidance has gone a long way to help the contest grow. The first contest had 17 car entries. The 2014 contest saw 310 cars speed down the track. Of those 310 student racers, 12 high school students and 11 middle school students took home top honors in five categories: People’s Choice, Fastest Car, Engineering, CO2 Race, and Overall Winners. Additionally, the top three seniors were awarded Cameron University Scholarships of $1,000, $800, and $600 for first, second, and third place, respectively.

The Duncan Area Youth Engineering Contest has been a big hit, thanks in large part to a strong desire to connect STEM learning with relevant careers and to involve the community. Future plans include finding a way to involve local manufacturing leaders in constructing and racing their own CO2 cars. “We are thankful for the growth of this contest,” says Bowden, “because it means more students are applying critical-thinking skills. . . . These students are our future workforce.”