Mark Gerberich, president of the Soap Box Derby, is working hard to help realize the vision of an autonomous Soap Box Derby car that students can build and race. The autonomous Soap Box Derby car entered its beta-test phase in 2018.

Q: The Soap Box Derby has raced cars for essentially the same way since the 1930s. Why is it interested in developing an autonomous Soap Box Derby car? 

A: We recognize that the world is in a constant state of change and advancement. Technology continues to offer us new ways of approaching everything. And we are always interested in identifying ways of moving the Soap Box Derby forward.

It won’t be long before driverless and autonomous cars become commonplace and we want the Soap Box Derby to be a leader in this important field.

Q:  What do you hope students will get out of the experience of building and racing autonomous Soap Box Derby cars?

A: Our hope is that students will gain exposure to coding and driverless technologies that are playing an increasingly important role in the transportation industry.

In addition, the experiential learning opportunity provided by the Soap Box Derby is instrumental for teaching the critical skills of collaboration and problem-solving.

And that’s not all. The Soap Box Derby has long been recognized as an excellent vehicle for teaching many fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math.

Q: Will it be the same thrill as sitting in the car as it goes down the track?

Kids that are driving cars and kids that are coding cars are competing, but in different ways. Both options are training students, whether it is in engineering a car or coding a car.   These opportunities teach life skills in addition to the learning opportunities, which are an important part of the Soap Box Derby mission. 

Q:  Will this experience make our students ready for work in the future? Can you please explain how?

There is no doubt that this experience will catapult children to the future. They will be learning important coding skills and working with driverless technologies that are predicted to dominate the transportation industry in the near future.

Additionally, learning how things work and don’t work is a really step in developing entrepreneurial skills and the entrepreneurial mindset which will be so important for life and work in the future.