After 20 years, Mr. G’s, as he is called around campus, Rocket Car Races at Kyrene Centennial Middle School are still going strong.

James Giannopoulos, science teacher at Centennial, culminated a month-long project for his class and other sixth-grade classes at the school into a day of high-speed action.

After more than two weeks of building and tweaking their cars, students were ready to race. Classes gathered in the school gym to compete against each other for trophies and bragging rights throughout the day on Friday.

The students each designed their own car, which they carved and drilled out of balsa wood and powered by carbon dioxide canisters. This was after a unit on energy and transportation in their science classes, which also covered aerodynamics.

“We learned everything about cars,” said Hannah Jones, a sixth-grader at Centennial. “We were learning about cars for a month and about what car we want to drive. It was also about being eco-friendly.”

Each class went through an elimination bracket with winners moving on to the next round and racing the winner of another class. There was also a trophy handed out for the best technological design, which was handed out to one student whose design stood out a little more than the rest.

Throughout the 20 years of implementing this unit, Giannopoulos has found different ways to make the unit more vibrant for the students. He has added and changed things over the years, including bringing in professional race car drivers for the students to interview and having his students choose a driver to research, but the goal has stayed the same.

“It’s about teaching science and math in a different way,” he said. “I think the thing they will remember from science class is the rocket cars and space camp, but space camp ended awhile ago.”

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