Kids these days are going downhill fast.
Young speedsters from Brooklyn and beyond turned out for Open Source art gallery’s Eighth Annual Soap Box Derby in Park Slope on Saturday, where kids put their hand-made racing machines to the ultimate test in a race down 17th Street, according to one competitor who offered some sage advice for future contestants.
“The first most important thing is to have good steering,” said 12-year-old Ivan Mihheikin, one of approximately 60 kids who participated in the race dash between Fifth and Sixth avenues. “The second most important thing is to have fun.”
The derby is the culmination of the gallery’s summer kids program, where youngsters spend the week designing and constructing their own soap-box racers.
The mini-Michael-Schumachers constructed their gravity-powered speed machines from recycled materials — much of which is collected by the program’s director, who says she scours Brooklyn’s sidewalks for reusable garbage on Sunday nights, proving the age-old adage that one man’s trash is some other kid’s souped-up race car.
“It’s all found material,” said Monica Wuhrer. “It’s important for the kids to open up their minds and get creative with what they have.”
But not all of the pint-sized grease monkeys felt the need for speed — some battled it out to win awards for design, engineering, or creativity, including two racers who said they eschewed efficiency entirely by constructing an entire playhouse on wheels.
“We wanted to go for style and design and we wanted something big that would fit two people,” said 12-year-old Antoinette Manteau, who created the rolling residence with co-driver Nina Kudlack, 11. “So, we thought that a little house would be cool.”
But for kids who wanted to take home the title of the fastest, there was only one judge — the clock — and ultimately, Mihheikin’s experience in previous derbies proved enough to propel him to first place.
That, and he found really good tires.
“I was really lucky to find three tires with inner tubing,” he said. “I had more grip.”