It was a race to the bottom.
The annual Park Slope soapbox derby took over 17th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues on Sept. 6, with dozens of fearless kids hurtling down the hill in rattletrap vehicles of their own design and construction. The goal was simple, one speed racer explained.
“I just wanted to get down the hill as fast as I could,” said Park Sloper Nathan Onderko, 7.
About 30 kids showed up on Saturday to race their cars, which they built in workshops with Open Source Gallery, an art space on the same block as the big race. The contraptions came in all shapes and sizes, including a two-wheeled motorcycle and a rig outfitted with a sail and rudder.
Compared to some of the race cars at the derby, Onderko kept it simple with a low-slung, four-wheeled contraption, but the competition was inspiring, his mom said.
“He went pretty utilitarian this time, but next year we might go with more flair,” Emily Spilko said.
A panel of judges scored the racers from one to five in three categories — design, originality, and engineering — and, along with a fourth category — speed — each had a winner. And, of course, whoever got to the bottom of the hill first won the race.
The derby was the culmination of a series of week-long workshops over the summer that gave kids the chance to design and build their vehicles. In the workshops, the children drew up blueprints for their cars and got to pick from a “junkyard,” a pile of recycled materials and wheels. A crew of teenagers oversaw production of the cars, but the bulk of the work fell to the students, an organizer said.
“Obviously some of them need help, but we try to make sure that they have their hand on every screw that goes in,” gallery co-founder Monika Wuhrer said.