There was a time when students racing toy cars in the halls of a middle school might be considered something other than educational. But at Tucumcari Middle School they might disagree with the more traditional notion since they instigated their Computer Aided Design program more commonly referred to as CAD.
“This (creating and racing the small compressed air powered racing cars in the school’s halls) has so many applications,” said Charles Gallegos the CAD instructor at the middle school. “They are learning so many different things from this. We cover a lot of stuff.”
What Gallegos has the middle school students do is multi layered. It begins with designing the vehicles that the CO2 cartridge will power on the computer and according to Gallegos this helps teach the students about computer use, design in general and the specifics of design like aerodynamics. Once the cars are created based on the young people’s designs, they are called upon to race them down a 20 meter course in one of the halls of the school. At that point in the cycle, Gallegos has the middle schoolers time the vehicles on the course, figure out the meters-per-hour and then convert that into miles-per-hour which the students are more familiar with.
“So you can see all the things that this covers,” said Gallegos, “We’re not just playing with toy cars.”
The cars are manufactured so they have small eyelets on the bottom of the vehicles which follows a taught piece of fishing line down the straight, 20 meter course. The CAD program is made up of two classes of 18 youths who each have a different responsibility on race day. One or two must watch over the starting line, another must time the racers, yet another couple watch over the finish line to determine who the winners are while others are responsible for converting the speed to its per hour form. Others must get the cars back to the starting line.
“There aren’t many just standing around,” said Gallegos, “at least not if I catch them.”