Braden River TSA students will take their CO2 cars to the nationals in Maryland.
It only takes about a second, 30 meters and what sounds like air escaping a compressor nozzle.
That second is the culmination of hours of work — designing, sculpting, sanding, painting, testing, building and measuring.
Braden River High School senior Brandon Schwartz and freshman Liam Wilford took first and third, respectively, in the CO2 Dragster event at the 41st Annual Technology Student Association State Conference March 2 in Orlando.
Now, the two students will advance to the national competition June 28 to July 2 in National Harbor, Md.
“There’s a lot that goes into it. You can put your individual spin on it,” Wilford said.
Their small wooden cars were simple, narrow and efficient. The students take a block of wood and remove material until they shape the car they need.
Typically, they use a machine in Maureen Hudson’s engineering classroom to create their cars using a design they made on a computer. But since the machine wasn’t working properly, they had to make their cars by hand using files, X-ACTO knives and sandpaper.
The setback clearly wasn’t much of a hang-up.
Now, the students have to start over and make a different car. Each competition has different specification requirements for the dragsters so students can’t reuse their cars. The cars vary in size and design, but each has a hole in the back where a CO2 canister is placed to propel the cars down the track.
“It’s always a nice feeling when you see you have one of the fastest cars,” Schwartz said.
Overall, both students said they felt confident about their potential at the national competition.
Hudson, who is the adviser for the school’s Technology Student Association chapter, described the two winners as fierce competitors.
“I have to kick them out of the lab,” she said. “They’re always saying ‘One more hour!’”
Even after they go home, they will often pack up their things and move to somebody’s garage to keep working, she said.
Hudson emphasized the CO2 Dragster competition is something of a tradition among TSA students. Since only a few students can compete, departing upperclassmen bestow their knowledge, tips and tricks to the underclassmen who are just getting started.
The students pour their heart and soul into their work, Hudson said.
“When they don’t win, they’re crushed,” she said. “But when they do win, it’s worth every minute. They’re such workhorses.”
Hudson said her job was especially rewarding. While core education teachers provide students with the knowledge they need to succeed, Hudson said she gets to see that knowledge in action.
Overall, Manatee County sent 320 students from 11 schools to the competition, including Braden River High School, Lakewood Ranch High School, Braden River Middle School, Haile Middle School and Nolan Middle School.
Braden River High School earned first place in the Outstanding School Award and Haile Middle School earned first place on the middle school level, according to a news release.
No other district in the state won as many Outstanding School Awards, Top 10 finalist pins or event trophies as Manatee County, the news release said.