Published December 10, 2015
ROCKY RIVER, OH – Sure, CO2 dragsters are cool. They’re fast, and
they can help students understand the relationship among concepts
such as mass, drag, and velocity. But here’s the real test: Can the sleek
dragsters catch the attention of and build the knowledge base in a high
school honors physics class – at an all-girls Catholic school, no less?
Yes! Pitsco’s Science of Speed – as the CO2 dragster activity is fast
coming to be known – is a raging success with this new demographic
if recent races at Bluestreak Motor Speedway inside Magnificat High
School in Rocky River, Ohio, are an accurate barometer.
Teacher Carolyn Wanzor has a reputation for challenging her
advanced Honors Physics students, and she wanted to graduate from
the mousetrap vehicles activity to something a bit more sophisticated
with a wow factor.
Aiding her mission was a donation from a local software executive.
“He generously donated quite a bit of money to the Honors Physics
program,” Wanzor said, adding, “I saw CO2 cars, and I was like, ‘This
is fun. How would I race it?’ . . . I Google searched ‘CO2-powered car
tracks,’ and of course Pitsco was the first on the list.”
Discovering Pitsco Education’s broad range of several hundred
dragster components from custom wheels to a variety of car kits to
wind tunnels, an elevated track, and start/finish systems, Wanzor knew
she had discovered everything needed to give her students a
complete, exciting, and highly educational experience.
Her initial purchase included all the essentials to get started with CO2
drag racing: the 65-foot FasTrak Elevated Racetrack, the Impulse G3 Race
System, a Precut Dragster 32-Pack, and a case of 8-gram CO2 cartridges.
She explained her choice of precut dragsters (predrilled axle holes and
rough-cut bodies) over the raw basswood or balsa wood blanks.
“I got the precut dragsters because it’s not an engineering class.
It’s not a class where we have power equipment, and we don’t have a
wood shop here. I wanted to go with something that was a little more
done,” Wanzor explained.
The precut dragsters don’t require much shaping beyond basic sanding
and smoothing, but they do allow for custom design and decorating –
much to the delight of the 60 high school girls involved in the activity.
“There’s going to be an aesthetics element to this as well, of course.
This is an all-girls school,” Wanzor said. “We have a collaboration with
American Greetings, which has its world headquarters in (nearby)
Cleveland. They’re going to judge the girls’ cars on aesthetics.”
Even though the girls were excited about challenging for the title of
fastest car, the more coveted crown might be “most cool and creative
car.” “They love to make things pretty,” Wanzor said. “I just wanted to
make it something where, yes, it needs to go fast, but it needs to look
good as well. Presentation, presentation, presentation. Mags just does
everything up like that.”
The aesthetics judging by some of the greeting card
company’s talented artists was scheduled to take
place in December, but the big race day was held
in early October in a spacious lobby outside
Magnificat’s performing arts
center – a full-fledged
extravaganza replete with race officials, a bracket showing head-tohead
performances, concessions for the fans, and plenty of heartpumping
“It was a blast and went over exceptionally well,” Wanzor said. “Even
two local newspapers came in with reporters to cover the event!”
By going all out and following some of the race day suggestions
outlined in Pitsco’s Science of Speed teacher’s guide for the full-fledged
STEM dragster activity, Wanzor and her students put on an event that
has the makings of an annual or even semiannual affair. Maybe it’ll
never grow as large as that other race over at the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, but on the education racing circuit, Bluestreak Motor
Speedway is well on its way to becoming a featured venue.