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South Park model car designers team head to world competition

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 6:13 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Stone Sweiss (left) and Zach Palamara (right) of South Park High School are two of a team of four students that took third place nationwide in the Formula One Technology Challenge on Monday June 10, 2013. The kids have been working for six years to master this engineering event, in which balsa wood F1 cars are designed and built and raced and are preparing for the national contest in Austin in November.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A display shows the cars used by a group of South Park High School students that took third place nationwide in the Formula One Technology Challenge on Monday June 10, 2013. The kids have been working for six years to master this engineering event, in which balsa wood F1 cars are designed and built and raced and are preparing for the national contest in Austin in November.

The Screaming Eagles Formula One team at South Park High School is used to beating the odds and is about to try again.

After six years of designing model cars for competition, the group of recent graduates plans to compete with 28 other teams in the F1 in Schools World Finals Nov. 8 to 16 in Austin. Twenty-five countries will be represented.

The Screaming Eagles' carbon dioxide-powered balsa wood F1 cars must pass speed and durability tests. The four-member team is required to defend its design techniques. The winner gets the Bernie Ecclestone Trophy and a scholarship to City University in London.

Preparing for the international contest isn't easy. The team plans to present its design Thursday to the school board, said David Darak, applied engineering instructor at the school and the team's adviser.

He said the purpose of the meeting is to raise awareness and recognize the students's work.

Screaming Eagles members are Michael Scandrol, team manager, Josh Smith, manufacturing engineer, Zach Palamara, design engineer, and Stone Swiess, graphic designer.

“They are doing a complete overhaul for the international competition,” Darak said, referring to their Formula One entries.

“We've been doing this for six years, and to finally get to this place has all of us excited,” Swiess said. “Now we don't just represent Pittsburgh or just South Park High. We represent all 50 states.”

The team formed in middle school, and because they've graduated, they're working on their time. The Screaming Eagles team is part of the Engineering Design and Development course at the high school.

Swiess said it's fascinating to work via Skype with another team based in Germany to prepare for the Texas competition. Darak said that type of collaboration happens only for teams that do well in their countries' national contests.

The Screaming Eagles placed third with a car that traveled a 60-foot track in just over a second at the event at the Michigan International Speedway.

“Who would have thought a team of high school kids would be working with kids six hours ahead of us?” Swiess said.

The two teams won't meet until the finals. The finished cars will include parts and concepts from both teams.

The South Park team needs $12,000 to compete and has raised $1,000 so far. Members are canvassing the area for business and family sponsorships.

High school Principal Patricia Smith called the team “an outstanding group of young men” and said private and corporate donations are being sought.

“We're not a huge district, but we're proud” that the program has done well with South Park students and what they've been able to build, she said.

A minimum of $5,000 is needed by July 12 for a hotel booking for the world competition.

Palamara wants to see his creation in action.

“I think it's pretty cool how you can design something on the computer and make it come to life,” he said.

David Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5804 or dpaulk@tribweb.com.

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