Inaugural River City Soap Box Derby held in Columbus

Students race derby-style using STEAM
Updated: Jul. 30, 2017 at 5:00 PM EDT
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(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)
(Source: Jose Zozaya/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Soap Box racing made a comeback in the Fountain City!

In the inaugural River City Soap Box Derby held Saturday, student racers got the chance to get behind the wheel of a derby car they made themselves using their science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) learning.

"I thought it'd be horrifying," said 12-year-old racer and student Jaylen Fairris, "but it's really exhilarating and exciting."

Let's Grow STEAM(x) CEO/President Robbie Branscomb told News Leader 9 she felt there was a need for these types of activities for kids, something, she said, that would allow them to take what they're learning in the classroom, and make it fun and engaging.

"A daunting task, I'll say that, but it felt like it was very worthwhile to do so," Branscomb said.

Several generations of former Derby champs lined the sidewalks along Cherokee Avenue, ranging from Stan Howard in the 1950s to Bobby Thomas, who won his derby race in the 90s. Both say they're glad knowing derby racing may come back for good.

"The soap box derby is for every kid," Howard said. "You don't have to be an athlete, and the family participation is great. You meet a lot of good people because it's families."

"It was really enjoyable for me, coming from a racing family," Thomas said.  "My grandfather raced, my uncles, my dad...and then  kind of went away, so when I heard about it coming out, back in Columbus, I really wanted to get out here and watch it."

Aside from the main event, which included fun and competitive races for kids, the crowd also saw a special downhill contest between sponsors donating resources and money to building the derby cars.

"It's a wonderful thing for the community to rally around, and it supports a great cause," said Cameron Bean with Midtown, Inc. "STEAM education, exercising the creative side of the brain's important, so anyway we can be involved in promoting that, we are."

"It just brings the community together," said Peter McBroom with Uptown Columbus, Inc.

When asked if he'd be back to race against his friends on another Columbus hill, Jaylen Fairris said there's no doubt in his mind he'd return.

"I think we should do this more often," he said, "because, one, it's really fun, and two, it gets a lot of people outdoors and actually doing stuff, instead of sitting on the couch all day."

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