A first for Butler Tech: High school students build racecar

A Butler Tech “class project” spent last weekend speeding, sliding and bumping around a dirt racetrack as some of its teen creators cheered wildly.

The first racecar ever built by students in the history of Butler Tech may have finished in fourth place but it was number one in the teenage hearts of those who re-built the old Ford Thunderbird for months from the wheels up.

And the students also raised more than $20,000 in donations from the racecar’s sponsors — which sported numerous company logos as it sped around the Lawrenceburg Speedway — to help needy Butler Tech classmates cover the cost of school supplies.

It was a win-win, said Butler Tech officials, regardless of the racer #75′s finish at the checkered flag.

“Everyone was thrilled when the car took fourth place in the heat race and qualified to move on to the feature race,” said Butler Tech Spokeswoman A.J. Huff.

A steering problem forced the racecar out from going for top prize in the feature race but the car survived to return to Butler Tech for repairs and future races.

ExploreButler Tech students build first racecar in school history

“The festivities lasted until nearly midnight and 23 business partners sponsored the racecar, providing over $20K for the Butler Tech Foundation Tools for Schools. The funds allowed every student who requested assistance this year to receive it,” said Huff.

The racecar re-build project and school supply fundraising — dubbed Full Throttle by the Butler Tech Foundation — is a first for the county-wide career school, which is one of the largest in Ohio, and its Auto Collision and Automotive Technology programs.

Students aren’t allowed to drive the car they built. That was handled by professional racecar driver Mike Bower.

But since late last year when career school officials wheeled in the old beyond-its-years Thunderbird, dozens of students have experienced the thrill of building a racer from rust. The car had been in a wreck where another vehicle smashed in the top by driving over the Ford.

“It was pretty much a mess and we blew it completely apart down to the bare block,” said Butler Tech senior Aiden Rader.

“It was a blast. I had so much fun doing it,” said Rader.

Junior Spencer Pippin said “coming into this class I didn’t think I’d be able to work on a machine like this.”

“I never thought I would be working on a race car that would be racing,” said Pippin.

The lessons from building a racecar go far beyond learning hands-on technical skills, he said.

“It’s shown me a lot of what it comes down to with working. When I first started I had little knowledge of working on cars. This has shown how much time and effort actually goes into making a car run.”

That’s one of the many reasons, said Marni Durham, assistant superintendent for Butler Tech, the career school took the leap in trying for the first time a novel approach of having teens build a racecar.

“It was their (students) idea to put stickers (sponsor logos) on the car to raise money for other kids who don’t have tools for their schooling,” said Durham.

And the unique project is on-going,” she said.

“When the car comes back all dinged up, which we all know will happen, students will rebuild it again.”

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