Drag racers burn through West Edmonton Mall

By Mathew White

EDMONTON – More than 60 students from six schools competed at the third annual Co2 drag races at West Edmonton Mall Friday.

After more than three hours of intense racing action with the miniature CO2 cartridge-powered cars, Jordan Sasseville from St. Mark Junior High took first place in the muscle-car division, Matthew Burg from Steele Heights Junior High clenched the top prize in the sprint-car division and  Marco Skeljo from Sir John Thompson Junior High took top spot in the show-car division.

Jordan Sasseville accepts his trophy and prize for winning the third annual Co2 drag racing competition in the muscle-car division at West Edmonton Mall on Friday, March 18, 2011. Photograph by Mathew White.

Being a man of few words, when asked how he felt about winning, Sasseville had one word: “good.”

He went on to say that building the small racecar wasn’t particularly challenging, he didn’t really have a strategy, and the whole process only took a couple of weeks.

While he’s not sure whether or not he’ll stick with the sport, Sasseville does admit the project has him more interested in science and engineering, and for Erin Faught, outreach coordinator with DiscoverE, that’s all that matters.

DiscoverE the fun

U of A engineering students with the DiscoverE program started the Co2 drag races three years ago as a way to interest younger students in science. Faught said DiscoverE has the same goal.

Created in 1993, DiscoverE’s goal was to get students interested in science through creativity and excitement.

“Our programming is directed at youth, to get them excited about potential careers in science, engineering and technology,” said Faught.

“We’re looking at getting the kids together in a competitive spirit over something they learn a lot about.”

In today’s world, Faught says it can be difficult for students “to see how science and engineering relates to their everyday lives or how it’s cool.”  But events like these can help tremendously and that’s something Daniel Mosian, Sasseville’s Grade 9 teacher, said he can get on board with.

Moisan had actually been involved in similar competitions with his previous school, but after learning about this particular event, he thought it would be a great opportunity for his students.

“I was all gung-ho to try and get as many of our (students) in as possible,” said Moisan.

Nine students in total came out from St. Mark Junior High.  Moisan said it was the thrill of the race that got them to participate.

“I think the students found it really exciting to watch their cars go head-to-head with cars from other schools,” said Moisan.

“It really got them geared up.  Instead of being a localized school event … this way they can go out and see how they do compared to other schools around the city.”

Cars, cars and more cars

The Co2 dragsters weren’t the only vehicles on display Friday.  In addition to the lego-botics, the Edmonton Police Service’s street-legal racecar was on site, as well as the University of Alberta’s 450-pound open-wheel racecar.

John Anderson (left) and fellow racecar-enthusiast stand with the University of Alberta’s racecar during the Co2 drag races at West Edmonton Mall on Friday, March 18, 2011. Photograph by Mathew White.

John Anderson, marketing director with the U of A formula S.A.E., said the racecar has been completely built and designed by U of A students.  He also spoke about the vehicle’s competitive career in the California race-circuit.

“It competed last year and placed first in the cost event amongst 81 teams, and fourth overall,” said Anderson. “It was competing against teams from the U.K, Japan, Mexico, India, the United States; teams from all over the world.”

Anderson also said they were the top placing Canadian team of last year’s competition.

All the first-place winners of the day, and their classes, will be given a trip to the U of A’s faculty of engineering department, complete with free hoodies and a pizza party.

The races have been confirmed for next year, but no date has been set as of yet.

View the full tournament bracket here.