The CO2 powered cars body is made from balsa wood carved and painted by the designer. A hole is drilled in the back of the cars to hold an eight gram CO2 cartridge, a size commonly used in seltzer bottles and bicycle tire inflation systems. Wheels are attacked via two axles which run through the body. Two eyelets are also attached to the underside of the car through which a length of fishing line is run. This line is attached to the track, keeping the car on course. Distance between the axles, distance between the eyelets, and specifications for the wheels vary depending on the race sanctioning body.
The race takes place on a twenty meter (65' 7 1/2") track. The CO2 powered cars are connected to launch pods which have needles that breach the CO2 cartridges. The pods and the race timer are activated simultaneously by a single switch, eliminating human reaction time. This timer is stopped when the cars trip an infrared light at the end of the track. Races often last less than a second: That's an average speed of over 70mph.
Numerous regional and state-wide competitions exist for these cars, but the premier national event is the Technology Student Association's Dragster Design Challenge. Judging is based on both aesthetics and performance. Cars are most often disqualified for being underweight: entries must weigh at least 55 grams (1.9 ounces.)
Look for our next article on CO2 powered cars. It is titled The Fastest CO2 Cars and you can find out about fast racers and the times that have been recorded by the Technology Student Association Dragster Design Challenge.