Penn Hills team takes first place at battery-car competition

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Atalia Pleskovitch, 11, of Penn Hills wasn't going to let her older sister outdo her.

So when the Linton Middle School student saw her sister Alexis take first place in last year's Sixth Grade Battery Car Challenge, she knew she wanted to get involved in the competition.

Atalia Pleskovitch, along with fellow sixth-graders Darien Mallory and Jacob Lach, took first place in this year's challenge for the fastest time, and went undefeated in all their races from the semifinals onward.

The February event at North Allegheny High School in McCandless included 62 teams.

Rich Gebrosky, gifted program teacher at Ingomar Middle School in the North Allegheny district, is the main organizer of the 22-year-old event.

The Penn Hills team had a build day in February, when they worked out their design for a battery-powered car.

The students did a lot of spinning their wheels, literally and figuratively.

“With our first wheel design, our front wheel didn't have enough traction — it was just spinning,” said Mallory, 12. “Atalia had the idea to add a rubber band.”

The team also had to overcome a troublesome motor, which they had to reattach to the car at the competition.

“Luckily, we brought a repair kit,” Mallory said.

All three students are in the Penn Hills School District's gifted program and worked with gifted coordinator Tracey Johnson to develop a design packet that also was part of the competition.

Penn Hills teams in the sixth-grade and seventh-/eighth-grade category have gone to the competition for the past four years.

“We've come back with something every year,” Johnson said.

For Lach, who already had an interest in automotive technology, the competition was perfect.

“I really enjoyed seeing all the different cars,” Lach said. “It's definitely something I want to keep pursuing.”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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