By Matt Harrelson
ROCKINGHAM — The BioMoto Pit Crew Challenge came to the Rockingham Dragway for the third year in a row on Saturday, and this year turned out to be the best according to team coaches, students and coordinators.
Forty-one students comprised six Richmond County middle school teams for the event, which incorporates science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills with the world of auto racing, and with the help of a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation and guided by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the North Carolina Motorsports Association, the Dragway became the perfect backdrop for such an event.
The program consisted of two main events; the invention showdown and the pit crew challenge.
In the invention showdown, students were given a patent that they must reverse engineer, said Hamlet Middle School coach Mark Burr.
Teams were tasked with developing a jack design and designing and building a rolling apparatus capable of pulling a 50 pound water cooler for 15 feet starting at a make-shift starting line and ending at a finish line. It used to simulate the functions of a pit stop.
“It’s a lot of fun, and the kids like doing it,” said Burr.
Each student team showcased their apparatus and demonstrated functionality to the judges for the event. Two of those judges were Don Richardson and Brian Walsh who work for Medical Murray, a device development, contract manufacturing and engineering company.
“There are a number of criteria that we judge on,” said Richardson. “It’s pretty comprehensive.”
A look at the Invention Showdown score sheet shows teams were judged on design elements, functions of their apparatus and general things such as how much of it was recycled, and was the team respectful and polite. The only team to place from Richmond County in the invention showdown was Team Extreme, one of the teams from Rockingham Middle School, with an honorable mention.
The main and most anticipated event was the pit crew challenge which took place on the dragway. Each team from every school designated a jackman and a wrench crew. Those who were jackmen were instructed to raise and lower the BioMoto signs in front and behind the race car, donated by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, as the sign was the equivalent of jacking up the car. Once that was done, the jackman races back to his or her team, and the rest of the group, or wrench crew, races back to the car and changes the tire.
Five lugnuts are changed in the process using an air gun and obviously speed is critical. The pit crews were judged on time unless there was a penalty for a lost lugnut or improper safety equipment and for accuracy.
All the teams enjoyed themselves during this event and their coaches could be seen guiding and encouraging their pit crews as they raced against the clock.
In addition to the invention showdown and the pit crew challenge, the two other events, which took place before Saturday, were the peak body and peak mind challenges.
Peak body was students participating in a fall pre-program fitness evaluation at Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Laboratory in Kannapolis. These are the same assessments used to analyze racing pit crews in the region. Over two semesters, students hone their fitness skills and nutrition knowledge. The students then return to the lab in the spring for post-program fitness evaluations to measure changes.
In peak mind, students learn the disciplines used by real pit crews and the importance of teamwork and creativity. Peak mind consists of a written exam to assess students’ knowledge of the BioMoto curriculum, an industry interview and an elective task which was selected by the students.
The Ghost Ryderz team from Ellerbe Middle School received an honorable mention in the peak body category and Richmond County schools swept the board in the peak body event with the Bomb Squad and Ghost Ryderz from Ellerbe taking first and second place and Team Talladega and Team Daytona from Hamlet Middle taking third and honorable mention, respectively.
Ellerbe Middle has more to be proud of as Team Ghost Ryderz and Team Bomb Squad took first and second place overall in the BioMoto Grand Champions. Ghost Ryderz, the BioMoto STEM Challenge Grand Champion at The Rock, had the highest overall score after completing the four-part BioMoto Challenge.
Benny Leviner, coach for the Ellerbe teams, was happy for his groups wins.
“I’m very proud of them today,” said Leviner.
The event was awarded the Education Initiative Award for 2013 by the North Carolina Motorsports Association.