POTTSVILLE, PA – As summer winds down, most kids want to squeeze in as much fun as possible before heading back to school. But this summer, the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews of Benesch’s Pottsville employees got a jump-start on their learning. They’ve been working hard over the last few weeks on a company-supported STEM project.
While the project had an engineering focus, there was still plenty of fun to be had. Even better—the kids broke a Guinness World Record in the process.
Getting the Wheels Turning
It all started in February, when project engineer and Benesch Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) committee member John Knecht’s son asked him, “Dad, how long of a track do you think we can make?” while playing with Hot Wheels.
John wasn’t sure, and so they did some online research to see how long other tracks have been.
“The first thing that popped up was the  Guinness record,” John recalled. “And I said, ‘I think we can beat that’.”
That’s when John came to CSR with the idea of building the world’s longest Hot Wheels track.
The company jumped on board immediately, believing that the project was a perfect opportunity to involve Benesch family and friends in a hands-on engineering activity. After receiving approval and funding, planning was underway. John contacted Guinness and sent in the necessary paperwork, making the event official.
Engineering a World Record
In preparation for the event, John calculated the grade necessary to keep the car moving at a constant speed which helped determine feasible locations for their record-breaking attempt.
Other engineering considerations included measuring track to calculate how many pieces were needed, determining the minimum radius that the standard track can achieve and mitigating the effects of wind and thermal expansion on the track. These factors were crucial as the effect of the sun and heat quickly became apparent after the record was achieved and the track began buckling.
During the planning stages, Benesch held two workshops where more than 40 children, parents and employees participated in various activities. A test track was set up for kids to evaluate the speed and stability of various Hot Wheels cars. Other activities included track assembly, decorating 100-foot track markers and building structures to hold the markers.
A Record-Breaking Race Car
On Saturday August 24th, Benesch employees, along with more than 100 friends and family members, successfully constructed a track measuring 2,176 feet, 21/8 inches. The prior record was set by Mattel, Inc. in Russia, at 1,838 feet.
The record-breaking race car (a red Hot Wheels Cyber Speeder) was placed down the track by Jack Knecht, John’s son. The successful run was completed in two minutes and 50 seconds.
Beyond breaking the world record for longest Hot Wheels track, the event was also a perfect opportunity for kids to practice teamwork and cooperation while developing planning and critical thinking skills. The challenge of building the record-breaking roadway parallels the transportation design work performed by their parents and relatives at Benesch.
“It was a great introduction to the principles of science and engineering for young kids. It was great to see almost 50 children there on Saturday morning,” Benesch chairman Greg Brennan said.
Official confirmation of the new record will come from Guinness later this fall.
Check out Benesch’s Record-Breaking run!
Watch the video above for a glimpse into the pre-run assembly at Benesch’s office, and then see Jack Knecht’s red Cyber Speeder race along the 2,176-foot track!