Junior high teams compete in IVCC’s Edible Car Contest for the first time
OGLESBY — On the surface, Illinois Valley Community College’s annual Edible Car Contest might appear to be nothing more than good, silly fun.
While it is highly enjoyable, there’s also a lot to be learned through the construction of a track-worthy yet edible vehicle.
IVCC hosted its 14th annual Edible Car Contest on Feb. 27 in the cafeteria, and each year it seems to be more popular. The contest, which celebrates National Engineering Week, was originally sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
More than 12 area schools competed this year’s races, which were the first to include an invitation to local junior high classes.
Putnam County Junior High School fielded several entries.
“It seems to get bigger every year, and everyone involved always enjoys it,” track inventor and organizer James Gibson said.
Gibson teaches electronic automation and other technical classes at IVCC, as well as serving as president of the Putnam County School Board.
Each year, the automated track, which measures elapsed time and “mouthfuls per second” speeds, is dismantled. Gibson’s students are then tasked with rebuilding it, often with improvements.
He’s also taken the enjoyable event to other schools throughout the country.
Jennifer Dudek, who teaches science at Putnam County Junior High, said her students assembled eight cars for the competition.
“I enjoyed watching how excited they got during the building process and with having a reason to do it successfully in order to be competitive,” she said of her student teams.
One of the best aspects of the competition is surveying the ingredients used in each car. Wheels not only need to easily spin, but the cars also have to remain in one piece and roll straight down the track.
Many end up in pieces after their trip down the track, but that’s part of the fun and challenge of the event.
Common items include Peep marshmallow or gummy bear drivers, summer sausage, ringed cookies, hard candies, graham crackers, fruits and vegetables, blocks of cheese, loaves of unsliced bread or rolls, rice cakes, unboiled pasta and several other household ingredients.
“The hardest part was getting the wheels to stay on while also working past the resistance so they spin easily,” Putnam County’s Mikenna Boyd said.
Many students return to seek improvement from their car’s performance in previous years. The team including LaMoille’s Thomas Molln has had difficulties the past two years. One year, his car failed to move past the starting line. Another year saw his entry make a record-breaking slow slide down the track.
Those cars that make agonizingly slow trips down the track often result in a roar of applause and cheering from spectators.
This year, however, Molln saw his team’s sweet-potato-bodied “Speed Potato” streak successfully down the short track before launching itself onto the plastic-lined floor of the cafeteria.
The Putnam County Junior High entry “Sugar Rush,” built by seventh-graders Makenzie Hanson and Emelia Grant, took home a first-place award for creativity. Other awards earned by Putnam County’s edible entries include second places for creativity and design, and a third place for design.
“We had no idea what to expect, but this has been a great educational event that’s also a lot of fun. We’re already looking forward to next year,” Dudek said after the announcement of the awards.