MAPS Students Bring NASCAR Action to HPHS

Students brought a bit of Daytona — complete with the scent of burning rubber, big wrecks and a dramatic finish — to Highland Park High School on May 3 during the Moody Advanced Professional Studies Grand Prix.

Juniors and seniors in the MAPS engineering and design class put their original race cars to the test on a course that challenged them to weave around obstacles and over a student-built ramp, then raced the surviving cars across the MAPS space.

A panel of judges also evaluated the students’ cars in nine different categories, including their aesthetic designs and engineering elements, and chose first, second and third place winners who were announced before the race.

The race course’s student-built ramp proved challenging for many competitors. PHOTO: Sarah Hodges

Travis Stewart and Ivan Zivaljevic’s car, the Ford GT40, won first place in the design competition. The Ford GT40 took home a victory in the first time trial, but had a disappointing final run. Stewart said the team wrapped rubber bands around the car’s tires to increase their friction on the course’s student-built ramp, but the rubber bands got caught in the gears during the race’s finals.

“I wish I was more prepared with the rubber bands,” Stewart said. “But otherwise, I’m pretty happy with it.”

The fastest car in the race-off between the top three finishers was the neon green Porsche GT3RS, which came back from a fall off the student ramp where it lost its outer structure. 

It crossed the finish line in the race-off in first place, but with its structure still off and wires showing. Leaving the body off was a strategic choice that helped with weight reduction, junior Brock Czarnecki explained.  

The three top finishers face off in the race’s finals. PHOTO: Sarah Hodges

The Porsche lost a wheel after it crossed the line. Czarnecki and teammate Wiley, a senior, debated reattaching it with super glue so the car could sprint across the MAPS space, but decided against the repair. The team had already used super glue to do car fixes prior to the race. “We do not need to mess it up anymore, potentially, by doing a rush job,” Wiley said.

Luke Baldwin, Kyle Beechem, and Hollis Guerry designed the MAPS course’s first-ever drift car. “It’s more fun to drive and try to control,” Baldwin said. “It’s harder to drive.” The car was difficult to control on the course, but the team members said they would like to try driving an actual drift car if they could.

Students designed the cars themselves, drew renderings, then 3D printed the car parts, including the steering, motor housing and battery pack location, executive director of HPISD’s Moody Innovation Institute Geoffrey Orsak explained. The race was the biggest project of the year in the MAPS engineering and design class.

“Thank you all very much for attending,” Orsak told the students’ audience at the end of the race. “Nothing caught on fire. No one was injured. It’s been a success.”

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