Pilot story and photos

by Bill Schlichting

Children who participate in AWANA at First Baptist Community Church in Brookings - and a few adult helpers - gathered to race little wooden cars in the Grand Prix Saturday morning in the Azalea Middle School gym.

The participants began about three weeks ago building the little cars, carving them from a block of wood provided by the AWANA organization. The $4 kit included the wheels. All the participants needed to supply was the imagination.

On race day, a pit crew weighed each car. If a car was heavier than 5 ounces, wood had to be shaved off. Or, in the case of a wooden AWANA bus entered by adult competitor Rick Nelson, spend lots of time using a drill to hollow it out. If it was lighter, weights were added.

The crew also made sure wheels rolled properly and that there was enough clearance under the car to roll down the track.

After a brief prayer by Pastor Ken Whitted came the moment the contestants had been waiting for: the race.

Several heats would determine the winners of each group. Cars were placed at the starting gate. A race official would release the gate to let the car roll down the track.

At the end of the track were overhead motion sensors. The sensors would send a signal to a laptop computer that recorded the order each car crossed the finish line.

AWANA coordinator Jill Ernest said the computer setup was the creation of Johnie Morris. Such a device is available, but he told the group he could build one for less money - and he did.

Meanwhile, as the heats continued, Nelson continued hollowing out his bus to bring it down to the required 5 ounces.

First the Cubbies, 3- and 4-year-olds, raced their cars, followed by Sparks, TNTs and adults. Races ended with the grand finale, a race between each children's group's first-place car.

Nelson continued to hollow out his little wooden bus.

During the races, a panel of judges, selected on the spot, picked their favorite car designs. Results were tallied and contestants were given awards for winning races and best design.

Just as the awards were handed out, Nelson gave up on his bus. It split in two.

AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. The name is taken from 2 Timothy 2:15: andquot;Study and shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth.andquot;

Ernest said the main purpose of the club is to andquot;encourage kids to memorize Bible verses.andquot;

AWANA meets Wednesday nights from 6 to 7:30 at First Baptist Community Church, 607 Pacific Avenue. Meetings continue through May and then the group will be off for the summer. Meeting will resume in September.

The AWANA Grand Prix is an annual event. Each year, participants build new cars.

For information about the organization, visit http:// www.awana.org. For information about the local group, call the church at (541) 469-2014.