The 2014 Edible Car Contest


High school students dominated the speed competition in the Edible Car Contest Wednesday at Illinois Valley Community College. And while it wasn’t a record-breaking race, Hall High School took First Place for the third year in a row.

The fastest car, designed and built by Hall calculus student Taylor Galassi, finished only .01 seconds faster than Ramrod II created by Megan Hewitt, Scott Urnikis, Ty Lenkaitis, Katie Goetsch of Putnam County High School. LaSalle-Peru High School and Area Career Center students Riley Stevens, Allie Dickey, and Ross Weber, captured third place racing under the name of Taters.

In what is designed as a team competition, Galassi was allowed to enter on her own. She had been sick and not able to meet with her team as they finalized their entry, but she built a car in hopes of being allowed to test it at the contest.

While the speed contest continues to be the highlight of the event celebrating National Engineering Week, the 79 participants on 26 teams competed for prizes in nine other categories.

The overall winner was a sleek eggplant sporting a graham cracker spoiler built by IVCC math students Tim Negray, Amanda Littlejohn and Nicole Walker. They won First Place in three categories -- Creativity, Most Likely to Run and a special math category – although they finished in the middle of the pack in Speed. The special math category, Schultzs’ Scholars, was developed for students enrolled in a Structure of Number Systems course taught by professor Cynthia Schultz.

Dorene Verucchi Perez, one of the contest organizers and the Coordinator of Computer-Aided Design at IVCC said, "Our purpose is to demonstrate that STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, can be creative and fun." And according to participants, the contest succeeded.

"Eating the parts that broke" emerged as a real plus for some participants.

The major challenge, similar to past years, was figuring out axels and wheels "to make it functional," as a high school student said.

Lessons learned by participants and spectators during the speed runs included: 1. lemons don’t make good wheels, 2. pretzel axels get soggy when used with cucumber bodies, and 3. really tiny cars (less than an inch) don’t register on the timing mechanism.

And while the cars may have been low tech, the timing mechanism was definitely 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."

Many of the participants said they really enjoyed the teamwork involved and seeing the vehicle work. "It was fun to work together to create something," said Morgan Phillips of Putnam County High School.

This year, a record number of 16 high school teams participated, with students from Henry-Senachwine entering for the first time. Henry-Senachwine students were advised by chemistry/physics teacher Becky Whited, Hall students by math teacher Jill Bruner, Putnam County by science teacher Andrea Skinner, and L-P/ACC students by CAD teacher Shawn Schwingle.

To highlight National Engineering Week, as spectators and participants were gathering for the speed competition, they competed for prizes by completing a quiz on engineering career information. Correct answers were announced during the awards ceremony.

The quiz question that generated the most incorrect answers was about the percentage of people in engineering careers who are women, Perez said.

"Women make up less than 20 percent of the engineering workforce," she said, explaining that most people believe there is a much higher percentage.

"That’s one reason why there is a big push nationally to increase the exposure of young women to STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]."

The contest was sponsored by the IVCC Division of Workforce Development. The contest originated in 2006 with support from a National Science Foundation grant.

Judges were Paul Smith, Les Schultz and Carrie Gonzalez. The Student Government Association provided pizza.

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

In 2013, IVCC’s Edible Car Contest received its third nomination for a prestigious Bellwether Award, a national award which recognizes outstanding and innovative community college projects. In 2012, the IVCC contest was one of ten finalists.

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 with students of all ages.

Further information on IVCC’s edible car contests and a copy of the handbook are available on the college web site at