Soapbox Derby Helps Students Learn Teamwork, Become Career Ready
Published on 5/16/17
District News Academics Danforth Magnet School
Last July, a team of Soapbox Derby students from Danforth spent a week in Ohio competing in the World Championship Soapbox Derby.
“The hill there was steeper than the one in Syracuse, and it was actually a real track,” seventh grader Saleem Febus explained. “It was different to race, and I almost got disqualified because I didn’t know how to drive on that kind of track and accidentally hit another car. But we figured it out and came in 8th!”
This year, the more than forty soapbox students at Danforth will compete alongside students from other SCSD schools in their effort to again advance to the World Championship. Along the way, students said they are learning valuable skills.
“Working with my friends is the best part,” seventh grader Jaymeer Everson said. “We learn how to communicate and that it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about perseverance and passion.”
“We’re learning how to help fix each other’s problems,” sixth grader Jamier Harris added. “At first I tried building a car but it was too small for us to get in. So we helped each other and we figured it out.”
David Butchko started the Syracuse Soap Box Derby in 2005 after his son developed an interest and wanted an outlet to practice in his own community. For the past five or so years, SCSD elementary, middle and high schools have taken part.
“Today’s students want to be hands on,” Mr. Butchko said. “That’s what this is. But in addition to building a car, there’s camaraderie, and they learn about encouragement. The objective is to learn about simple machines, but it does so much more than that. It helps them see the big picture and they get to be part of a big event.”
Teachers work with students on building the cars, and then Mr. Butchko helps students practice with them, teaching them about aerodynamics and weight distribution, how to sit in the car, where in the lane to drive and more.
Danforth teacher Brittney Sgambellone said students’ participation in the Soapbox Derby has brought about positive changes in them while also exposing them to some technical skills that they could one day use in a career.
“They get to go from seeing the parts laying there to racing the finished product,” she said. “The result isn’t a grade but being able to race. They are so proud to be part of a group like this that is like a family. They each have a purpose. And the derby goes hand-in-hand with behavior and academics, so it helps engage the kids in their own academic success.”
Good luck to all of our SCSD Soapbox Derby students as they compete in the 2017 Syracuse Soapbox Derby and continue to expand their STEM skills!