Soap box racing teaches Roanoke kids about STEM-Learning

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ROANOKE (WSLS10)-- A new summer program for middle schoolers at the West End Center prevents summer learning loss, while also giving students a chance to have some fun. The students are working on soap box derby cars to race at a local track by the end of the summer.

The cars are being used as tools to get these students more interested in STEM-based learning. The program uses racing to introduce science, technology, engineering and math to students in an enjoyable and engaging way, that doesn't feel like learning.

"Anytime you're working with children," says Nathan Proutey, the Educational Service Director at the West End Center. "When you can make something their own and give them ownership over it, it's a better situation for them because they're more excited about it."

Over the next few weeks, the students will be taking some soap box derby cars apart and putting them back together to better fit their own specific needs. They'll also get to choose the paint and designs-- and when the cars are all ready, the students will take them down to the track and race.

Delegate Sam Rasoul brought the idea to the West End Center. He says it all started when someone in the community began telling him about the sport.

"A community member came to me and said, 'I'm really interested in soap box derby and I think it'd be a great way to teach STEM-learning to children,'" says Delegate Rasoul.

And the rest was history-- he approached the West End Center, and they were more than happy to take part in the program. The race track here in the Star City is one of only two in the whole state-- which is why Delegate Rasoul says it's so important to take advantage of the learning tools we have right in our own backyard.