DRUMMOND – There’s another state championship team at Drummond High School.
Two months after the Class C school’s culinary team took on the big schools of Montana to capture its first state title in Helena, Drummond Racing was crowned grand champion at the 2017 Montana F1 in Schools Challenge.
The third-year competition is based around designing, building, marketing, displaying and racing a mini-sized Formula I race car. Think a pinewood derby car made of high-density foam and powered with a blast of CO2, suggested coach and science teacher Darcy Schindler.
Drummond’s racer, nicknamed “Caravel,” won the latter event in a shade over one second on a 20-meter track at the state meet April 7-8 at Highlands College in Butte.
It was, in essence, a runaway.
Caravel – a 7½-inch long speedster made of high-density foam and named for a kind of small Spanish or Portuguese sailing vessel of centuries past – stopped the clocks in 1.047 seconds. The next fastest car was more than one-tenth of a second slower. In full-scale drag racing terms, that’s a margin of more than a whopping two seconds over 400 meters.
Now the team made up of six underclassmen needs to raise up to $10,000 to get to the “Cup of the Americas” national championships in Austin, Texas, on June 8-10.
Schindler said the first $1,000 is already in hand. It came courtesy of the culinary team that, after two successful fundraising dinners in Deer Lodge and Drummond, amassed the $8,000 it needed and more to get to North Charleston, South Carolina, for the ProStart national championships April 28-30.
Both competitions are under the auspices of the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
“The F1 in Schools is a little bit different because it’s through our 21st Century Community Learning Center program, so it’s funded through a federal grant. Most of the other competitions are a little bit more centralized,” said Dylan Klapmeier, media assistant at OPI.
The F1 in Schools even offers an international competition for national winners. This year it’s in Malaysia in the fall, but the 2016 Worlds were held in Austin, where Montana’s pioneer F-1 club, Harlem United, became the first Native America team to compete in the world finals.
Harlem won the state competition in each of the first two years it was held. Schindler said the school on Montana's Hi-Line couldn’t get a team together this year because its lead advisor, Craig Todd, was sidelined with pneumonia.
The top five Montana teams are eligible to compete at nationals. Sheridan was runner-up, followed by Hot Springs, Simms and Hamilton, in that order.
Schindler is assisted by a community mentor, Bridgette Perry of Better Than Logs, a local manufacturer of concrete log siding. Their team placed first in four of the six events in Butte: team sponsorship and marketing, research and development, best engineered car and fastest elapsed time. Hot Springs took top honors in another, team identity, with its Hot Pursuit name and logo.
Drummond Racing is a young team, with five sophomores and a freshman, and their varied roles reflect the scope of F1 competitions.
Elizabeth Cartmill is graphic designer and in charge of the winning pit display. Carson Geary, who missed the state competition due to illness, is team resource manager. Gabby Kempf is team manager and handles social media. As lead engineer, Tanner Piippo worked with Murray McIntyre of Deer Lodge Ironworks to design and manufacture the race car. Shamus Scott is the team’s marketing manager.
The lone freshman, Clay Fulk, is manufacturing engineer and Piippo’s understudy.
Piippo, who Schindler said aspires to a career in mechanical engineering, began working with McIntyre on the car design months ago. The rest of the team shifted into high gear in February. All are weaving their time around other activities. Cartmill and Kempf are on the school softball team, while Scott is a pole vaulter on the track team that Schindler coaches.
“It’s kind of nice for a lot of our kids, some that don’t do sports, to get the chance to do academic types of things,” Drummond Schools superintendent Bryan Kott said. “I’m hoping they do well in Texas. I know last year Harlem ended up having a student offered a full-ride to Texas A&M, so just the opportunities that are available to these kids, especially in engineering, is great.”
Schindler has been on Drummond’s “title town” runs before, serving on coaching staffs for teams that won five state football titles and one state track and field crown from 2003 to 2009.
That was before F1 In Schools and culinary competitions came onto the radar.
“We’ve got a lot of neat things going on in Drummond that just kind of started up in the last couple of years, as far as academics outside of the classroom,” said Schindler. “It sure is rewarding when the kids get into this.”