Derby cars fly by gravity

Apr. 06, 2014 @ 02:06 PM

A gigantic Jumbotron loomed near the starting line of the fourth annual Gravity Games. It was the newest addition to Google’s soap box derby race, allowing spectators and racers to see every second of each race as the cars flew down Ashe Avenue, running a stoplight and breaking the 20 mph speed limit. After each race, a Google Doc appeared on the screen, reporting times for each car and easily keeping track of the teams.

Announcer Rocky Brooks from radio station WJRI said, “It changes every year. It just keeps getting better and better.”

Saturday’s Gravity Games took place on a cheery and sunny day in downtown Lenoir. Thirty-six kit car teams and three engineered car teams raced against each other in their separate categories.

Middle school and high school students came from all over to race, including driving up from Georgia. Students, parents and teachers scrambled early to put the finishing touches on their cars. Spectators waved Gravity Games flags, checked out the Appalachian State University Biology Station, which had microscopes and precious gems, and dined on Bojangle’s, Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout goodies while waiting for the event to begin. A giant green Android, Google’s mascot, stood over the track, silently cheering on the contestants.

Dan Tremble said his daughter, who raced in the games, learned how to “be a part of a team” and the importance of science, “whether she pursues it or not” as a career.

Hunter Tufts, racing for the Collettsville Red Devils, said he learned that “you have to work well in the team. Otherwise, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Grinning from ear-to-ear, Phillips said, “I want to do it again.”

Among the kit cars, Walter Johnson Middle School in Morganton beat out Granite Falls Middle School for first place with a time of 30.788 seconds against Granite Falls’ 30.873.

Among the engineered cars, made from anything and everything, as long as it fit the weight and size specifications as determined by Google, Walter Johnson Middle School won first place. Second place was won by Alex Martin’s students at Hibriten High School.