Smashing barriers in STEM Motorsports

Episode 441

May 6, 2024

Crush Zones and tech ed meet again

One of my favorite STEM Motorsports projects is the Crush Zone in Motorsports exercise. Readers have seen the results of the Auto Mechanics and Agriculture classes in previous blog posts. It was now time for the Welding classes to give the exercise a try.

On day one the morning and afternoon classes of welding instructor Keith Dumond at Caribou Tech learned about crush zones in NASCAR’s Nex Gen welded front clips, how cars have crush zones built in for head-on collisions and viewed a crash at Texas Motor Speedway where the driver walked away under his own power.

The students then paired up to build prototypes of devices which were bolted to the front of a “Crash Kart” which would deliver their egg to a crash wall. The welding students needed to put their ideas together using toothpicks, three mini-sticks of hot glue, and one sheet of copy paper.

Welding students Parker Wark and Landen Leavitt on day one of the two-day Crush Zone Challenge use toothpicks, hot glue, and imagination to build their egg protector. The device did a decent job of protecting the egg netting them a second place in the AM class. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Built prototypes were tested the next day to see how they worked on the test course. The track was tilted at 17 degrees and the crash kart was started 12 feet from the wall. On its trip to the wall students timed the overall elapsed time (ET) and the time in the speed trap. After the test, speed was determined. In addition, the run was videoed in slow motion which was viewed post test.

Typically, one or two prototypes make it to the wall and protect the egg. The morning class had two make it to the wall and the afternoon class had two also make it through the crash. The two classes set the bar higher than ever.

In the am class Dylan Levasseur, Caribou, despite a weight increase of 25%, had his prototype shatter which dissipated the energy from the crash and kept the egg from breaking. His crash speed of 2.6 mph helped with survival of his passenger, the egg.

Second place Parker Wark also from Caribou had his prototype survive the initial hit to the steel wall but the slower speed meant he had to send it again. The second trip was not as friendly.   The Race Director and I determined that his entry was worthy of second place.

STEM Motorsports Crush Zone second and first place for Caribou Tech Welding morning class. Second place Parker Wark on left, winner Dylan Levasseur center, and AM Race Director Brianna Ketch. Students were awarded race shirts from Big Red Camaro Racing and Nutrena Ag. (HTF Motorsports photo)

In the afternoon the crush zone protection designed by Victor Ballerstein, Presque Isle, second from right and his teammate Duncan Camp, Ashland on far right not only had the third fastest time but protected their occupant (the egg) from damage. Afternoon videographer Brody Anderson on left and PM Race Director Dylan Levasseur next to Anderson. (HTF Motorsports photo)

Unfortunately, the morning class video is unavailable. However, videos from Brody Anderson from the afternoon will give the viewer some perspective of what the egg went through as it hits the wall of steel. You can see that the crumple zone did a good job of collapsing and shedding part in sacrifice to protect the eggs. The crash kart in video two comes right at the camera and looks like it is angry.

STEM Video with welding 4 12 24 Brody Anderson


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Things learned while solving chainsaw mystery

I take care of equipment owned by a friend including his chainsaws. One of these relatively new saws however, was not starting well. Normally that saw received care to its filter, fuel, and chain just like the others.

After bringing the saw home to determine what was going on with the recalcitrant machine. Sure enough, the saw was hard to start and when it was running the power was not up to par.

That meant a trip to the mancave/shop for HTF Motorsports. It was at this point that I started my journey toward perseverance and troubleshooting skills in practice. While on this adventure I was reminded of the type of work needed by the race car owner and or mechanic which very well could the same person.

First point of attention was the screen in the exhaust used as a spark arrestor. The screen turned out to be clean from the last service I did on this saw. The spark plug became the next subject of investigation. It actually looked fine.

Let’s try to see if fuel is a factor. Out with the old and in with the fresh fuel. No change!

Of course, the carb adjustments had to be looked at. I learned the new carbs have limiters which I presume are for emissions purposes. After the adjustments were tried, I figured that carb may be the problem.

After way too many looks at a variety of You Tube videos, I decided to investigate the purchase of a new carb. I was pleasantly surprised that new was available for less than $25! Why not go that route?

Did I mention that the saw was also leaking large amounts of fuel when placed on its side. Looking on that side of the saw began a journey of frustration. The fuel hose must be the problem since it appeared the leak was from that area.

Since a new carb was on order, I decided to remove the old carb and try to determine where the mystery leak was originating. The obvious thing had to be the old fuel line or so I thought. I took that chainsaw as far apart as I could without removing the engine. I looked at each piece for cracks or hidden clues to leakage.

Off to the local auto parts store for new fuel line. After investigating the inside diameter and outside diameter, a 10-inch clear fuel line was secured. I thought the line had to fit through the hole tightly to get a leak-proof seal.

The new carburetor arrived via UPS meaning reassembly was in order. I learned that paying attention to details when disassembling the pieces associated with the card removal was critical. I took a few photos of the throttle linkage which were helpful, yet I did not take as I should have taken. Viewing You Tube videos in great detail it turns out would eventually answer some of my questions.

The carb was finally installed, linkage, and lines in what appeared to be correct positions. Put the whole chainsaw back together and with great anticipation “let’s crank this baby over”!

Not only did it not start, but fuel was pouring out of the saw almost at the rate that I was adding it. Grrrrr. What in the world was going on?

I had invested at least 10 hours in the project at this point plus maybe a couple hours of searching and viewing videos on You Tube. I have learned that when this loggerhead is reached, it is time to shift to another project and think about something else.

The blue arrow points to a white tank vent. Directly behind the vent is a black hose which correctly attaches to an orange-colored tank barb which I had not seen until very close investigation. Hook fuel line correctly…fuel leak solved. (HTF Motorsports photo)

See you at the Mudbowl at Spud Speedway June 7-9, 2024!

Let’s go racing

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria (Matthew 5:16)






Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing. He races Champ Karts and owns HTF Motorsports in remote Westmanland, Maine