A long-standing tradition is St. Albert’s Soap Box Derby. And although it is barely past Valentine’s Day, derby organizers have already announced registration is open for the June 16-17 races.
In 2022, a maximum of 100 registrants were accepted. Bob Fisher, derby president, was excited to announce this year the association opened registration to 150 kids from six to 14 years.
“We’re looking at a real positive year,” said Fisher. More than 25 youth have already registered.
For some people the Soap Box Derby has become a family affair allowing multiple generations to enjoy the thrill of participation. One family that’s all-in is Bill Wolfe and his two children Malcolm, 10, and Amber, 7.
“I’m a big community guy. St. Albert doesn’t have community halls like Edmonton. So, if I can get involved in a community event that’s great. The more, the better,” said Wolfe who also operates the Forest Lawn Community Facebook page.
Malcolm and Amber began racing two years ago after their father purchased a derby car painted with a red-hot flame job for $35 from a family that outgrew it. Both kids shared the racing car on the hilly St. Vital track.
However, Malcolm has outgrown the car and Bill bought materials to build a newer, larger one. Amber inherited the old car and is personalizing it with unicorns and hearts.
“My daughter loves speed. The faster she goes, the better. She’s the one who runs into the bales at the end of the road. My son, on the other hand, does it because dad is into it, and he gets to use tools and paint.”
In addition to spending time with his children and building strong ties, Wolfe loves the derby because it’s a safe activity and offers important life lessons.
“Some parents try to protect their children from losing. This lets kids learn to lose yet be competitive and be supportive of other players.”
Another parent who strongly supports derby races is Kyle Coxen, Morinville Community High School’s construction/fabrication teacher.
“This was the first time Bob Fisher introduced the idea, but when he called me I thought it was a great idea,” said Coxen. “Lots of people come to our shop, and I like supporting people in our area. When the derby asked for our help, I thought it was great exposure for them and for our school to show what we can do. And when I see it puts smiles on people’s faces, that’s what does it for me.”
Coxen volunteered to use the school’s CNC machine to manufacture 40 car kits. Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is a digital manufacturing process. Pre-programmed computer software directs the movement of factory tools and a range of machinery from grinders and lathes to mills and routers to build a product.
“It’s essentially a wood-cutting robot. I design all the parts and even mark out the locations where the screws go. After I design the parts, I program the information into it. I need to use G-code, a language for programming CNC machining. The program tells it what type of cutter to use, how deep, how fast the cutter moves. Then it goes in and does its magic,” Coxen said.
An entire kit with individual parts built from three-quarter inch plywood takes 25 minutes to cut whereas traditional hand cutting methods might take several hours.
Coxen also plans to give his two Grade 9 construction classes the opportunity to build two more racing cars.
“One will have a shaggy dog design, but I haven’t decided what the other will be.”
Twenty kits will be sold to families who enjoy assembling them into cars while the remaining 20 will be assigned to community racers for use during the derby. Community racers generally require varying types of assistance and are recommended through the Family Resource Centre.
“We already have 20 cars and with these 20 we now have 40. We want to get as many kids out there as possible,” Fisher said.
A Race-Kit complete with wheels, steering and a template with building instructions is available through the derby for $90. Tech support is also available at techbuild@stalbertsoapboxderby. For registration information email [email protected] or call 780-459-6716.