The 2012 Edible Car Contest


It was a record-breaking day at the Illinois Valley Community College track for the Seventh Annual Edible Car Contest Wednesday. Not only did spectators see the fastest cars, they also witnessed the most finishers and cleanest track.

Only two-hundredths of a second separated the three top winners of the speed competition, all of them entries constructed by Hall High School students. Tony Victor, Chelsea Wallaert, and Brisa Moreno of Team Awsome finished first; Chris Anderson, Rhodes Garland and Crystal Bouroy of Team Zoonie-mobile finished second.

Team Rhodes, which finished third, was one of the few cars in this year’s competition to disintegrate at the end of the three-foot speed run. The body of that car, built by Lauren Crew, Claire Tostovarsnik, and Chase Miller, was constructed from a waffle.

This was the third year for Hall High School students, accompanied by math instructor Jill Bruner, to participate in the contest, which celebrates National Engineering Week. LaSalle Peru High School/Area Career Center drafting students, accompanied by Shawn Schwingle, competed for the first time last year. This year, two additional high schools joined the fun: Putnam County High School with instructor Andrea Skinner, and Streator High School with instructor Janelle Hamilton.

"Our purpose is to demonstrate that engineering, math and science can be creative and fun," said contest organizer Dorene Perez, Program Coordinator Computer-Aided Design at IVCC. And according to participants, the contest succeeded.

"I liked being creative and constructing it as a team," said one Putnam County High School senior. Another described the best part as "having to problem solve and improvise."

The biggest challenges, according to the designers, selecting axels that wouldn’t get soft or soggy and wheels that would actually roll. As one student said, "I had to build two cars; only one successful."

Since a real plus was, in the words of one student, "eating the leftovers," the prizes were especially rewarding because many of them were made of chocolate in keeping with the edible theme.

While the speed contest was the highlight of the event, the 72 participants on 23 teams competed for prizes in eight other categories. A LaSalle-Peru H.S. team named Dete’s Beats, which included Zach Repsel, Josh Deters and Travis Mahoney, won First in Design and First in Engineering Drawings. A Hall H.S. team named Weeners (with a hot-dog body car), which included Hanna Kosciewicz, Lizzy Edington and Liz Mosbach, won in the High School category and was Second in Creativity.

A Project Success car constructed by IVCC students Alberta Wimberly, Eva Soto and Shaunessy Gatch was First in Creativity, Second in Detail and Second in IVCC Student Organizations.

The top winner in the Prospective Engineers category, which also scored a Third in Creativity, was a compact model constructed of an ice cream cone, designed by Hannah Graham, Gina Anderson and Delaney Ridley.

In a repeat victory, three IVCC students were successful again with a sugar glass creation; this year a black beauty entitled Venom won First in Detail and Third in the Prospective Engineers category; last year a pink delight entitled Fury took a First in three categories. Those cars were constructed by Mike Petrone and Megan Cook, joined this year by Joe Hufnagel.

The cars may have been low tech, but the timing for the speed competition was decidedly high tech. Under the guidance of Jim Gibson, the Program Coordinator of Electronics, electronics students designed, programmed and built a programmable logic controller (PLC) to time the speed on the track. The control was connected to a computer running Rockwell Automated software. The timing setup utilized a reflective photo eye at the start and finish.

In addition to recording the time, the software also translated the time into "mouthfuls per hour," with the speed winner recording 238 mph.

Teams were asked to include at least one female since encouraging more women to consider careers in engineering technology is one goal of the contest.

"There’s a big push nationally to increase the exposure of young people, but especially women, to science, technology, engineering and math or STEM," Perez said, noting that women make up less than 20 percent of the engineering workforce.

The contest was sponsored by the IVCC Division of Career and Technical Programs, the Making Industry Meaningful In College (MIMIC) project, and a National Science Foundation grant. Students from the electronics and engineering technology programs assisted with the activities, and the Student Government Association provided pizza.

Judges were Elaine Novak, dean of the Division of Career and Technical Programs, Bob Hunter, IVCC webmaster; industry representative Ron Wagner; and former IVCC students Luke Maltis and Kelli Whightsil.

Organizers of the contest were Perez, Gibson and communications instructor Rose Marie Lynch.

In fall 2011, IVCC’s edible car contest was nominated for a prestigious Bellwether Award, a national award which recognizes outstanding and innovative community college programs.

With support from the National Science Foundation, the contest organizers have written a "how to" handbook and given workshops at a number of national conferences to encourage and assist teachers to organize contests as a fun way to provide hands-on experience for classroom content.

Further information on IVCC’s edible car contests is available on the college web site at