Lots of loudly chatting students align on top of a grassy slope at Durie Hill School in Whanganui waiting for their turn to put their wheels on the track.

It's the Durie Hill School mini soapbox derby for senior students who have been working on making their own vehicles to race in a series of heats and finals.

"Ready? Go," says teacher Cara Johnston who is leading the project.

Two vehicles are released on each of the two carpet tracks at the same time by their creators and off they go.


The rest of the students cheer as some vehicles zoom down the hill, while others crash and a few even need a bit of a push to get under way.

Johnston said the students have been learning a technology unit called ready, steady, go.

"The teaching and learning concepts behind it are science-related. It's teaching science in a meaningful context that the kids can relate to and feel in control of," Johnston said.

Landon Robbemond (hands on carpet) enjoys racing the vehicle that he made with his dad Eugene. Photo / Bevan Conley
Landon Robbemond (hands on carpet) enjoys racing the vehicle that he made with his dad Eugene. Photo / Bevan Conley

"We've had three official construction afternoons where parents and family members have come along to help. Each afternoon the tension and the excitement has been building."

One of the parents was Eugene Robbemond, who helped his son Landon Robbemond, 10, build a vehicle and came along to see how it went on the day.

"It was a bit hard actually because you've got limited materials to work with, mostly stuff like toilet rolls, straws and cardboard," Robbemond said.

"It's hard to make something that's going to go really fast down a hill with toilet rolls."

Robbemond is from Cape Town in South Africa where he used to enjoy downhill racing as a young boy and would tear down mountainsides with his friends.


He owns an engineering business, Fabrication Creations on Nixon St which came in handy for Landon's vehicle, forming a base out of aluminium sheets to hold everything together.

Robbemond said it was a good initiative from Durie Hill School and he would like to see more events like it.

"It's important, it teaches students how to think outside the square and how to deal with things when stuff goes wrong," Robbemond said.

"A lot of times too, they're going to be part of a team and not everything is going to go right. That's part of life."

Landon won his heat and was looking forward to the finals later in the afternoon.