Butler Tech students build first racecar in school history

Most high school classroom projects don’t include creating a racecar from a junked vehicle and then getting it racetrack ready to compete but for the first time that’s exactly what Butler Tech students are doing.

And not only are the students in Butler Tech’s Auto Collision and Automotive Technology programs getting to build a racer from the wheels up, they are raising money through race sponsors to buy school supplies for needy students.

The old Ford Thunderbird was purchased by the school last fall and has since often been the center of enthusiastic attention from students as they ready it for its first race on the dirt track at Lawrenceburg Speedway Sept. 3.

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The race car 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.

“When we rolled it (car) out (last fall) it was overwhelming how many kids signed up and we had to turn kids away,” recalled Ted Hensley, automotive technology instructor for Butler Tech.

“They worked on that thing tirelessly. And it was basket case when we bought it. It was a rolling chassis and the engine was apart,” said Hensley.

The project team of high school students last school year and this worked to completely transform the 15-year-old vehicle into a racecar with many of the teens using their school-authorized, independent work-study days on Fridays to spend time on the car.

“So it cumulated over the course of a year until we now have a 500-horse-power, full-fledged racecar built.”

And a dozens of paying sponsors — just like professional racers — have donated thousands of dollars toward the school supply fundraising in exchange for having their company logos adorn one of the most unusual, local race cars ever created.

The finishing touches are now the focus as students ready it for its inaugural race. They are not allowed to drive the stripped-down racer but a professional driver will power their creation around the Indiana track as they cheer on from the stands.

Regardless of how it finishes its first race, the project is already in the winner’s circle, according to Butler Tech Assistant Superintendent Marni Durham.

She said the automotive students had the idea about soliciting business sponsors through offering ad signage on the racer to raise funds for school supplies for needy classmates.

“This is really students helping students,” said Durham.

Spencer Pippin, a junior at Butler Tech, said he was thrilled at a chance to build a racecar.

“Working on this racecar was a lot of fun. Coming into this class I didn’t know I’d be able to work on a machine like this and working on race car that will be racing,” Pippin said.

Pete Becker, vice president for Skanska USA Building Inc., is among the sponsors and said the merits of the project were clear from the get-go.

“Nothing is more important than giving young students the right tools they need to allow them to succeed in the education path they chose,” Becker said.

Jed Portman, communications manager at 80 Acres Farms, one of the fundraiser’s other top sponsors, said “when Butler Tech asked us if we wanted to sponsor a racecar, we said absolutely.”

“One, because who could turn down such a cool sponsorship opportunity, and two, because we want to spread the word about our relationship with one of America’s best career and technical schools,” said Portman.

For more information on the project and how to make an individual or company donation, go to Butler Tech’s Full Throttle website.

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