How you can enter the Lunch Box Derby

Information about the Lunch Box Derby race, rules, and car designs can be found at their Web site at www.lunchbox.org. The race is open to fourth- and fifth-grade students. Teachers can order an entry kit online or from a sponsoring grocery store. The kit contains an official entry form, lesson plan, and stickers that students can put on their cars.

Cars are made using at least five fresh fruits or vegetables, three bamboo skewers, four toothpicks, and a rubber band. (The point of the competition is to give students a fun way to learn about nutrition, hence the requirement of five fruits or vegetables.)

Cari Volyn is a spokeswoman for the Washington Apple Commission, the primary sponsor of the contest. Her advice is to use apples for the wheels. "They seem to hold up well," she says, "and a lot of the cars with the best distances use them." But cars using potatoes, oranges, and yams for wheels have also held up well, she adds. The bamboo-skewer axles are the real heart of the cars.

Local competitions may be held in any classroom. Each car gets two runs down an eight-foot ramp set at a 30-degree angle. Cars may be adjusted between runs. Entries from local contests (see details in the "rules" section of the Lunch Box Derby Web site) must be received by organizers in Wenatchee, Wash., by Feb. 26. Cars are judged 70 percent on distance, 30 percent on creativity.

The top US teams will again win a trip to the finals in Washington, D.C., this March. So head for the fridge and start work on your car!

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