Hot Wheels + kids = science know-how

Children learn about momentum and other cool concepts by building a racetrack for a toy car competition at ScienceWorks event
Penny Pankonin, left, and Jessiah Pankonin of White City let Hot Wheels fly during the Hot Wheels Extreme event at ScienceWorks in Ashland Saturday.Jamie Lusch

Ten-year-old Kipling Parowski from Ashland and his friend Kieran Rooney from Phoenix thought adding an active volcano to their racetrack would help enliven their car race at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum in Ashland Saturday.

But once the boys fashioned a volcano out of a spewing green hose, they had to figure out how to create enough momentum on the racetrack to launch the cars over the volcano.

If you go

What: Hot Wheels Extreme

When: Noon to 5 p.m. today

Where: ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, 1500 E. Main St., Ashland.

Admission: Free for kids ages 2 and younger, $5 for kids ages 2-12 and $7.50 for adults (admission includes a free Hot Wheel)

Details: or 541-482-6767

The kids were learning science concepts without even knowing it, which was the intention of the first annual Hot Wheels Extreme event, said Susan Hearn, the museum's marketing director.

The event continues today from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum, 1500 E. Main St. in Ashland. Admission is $5 for ages 2-12 and $7.50 for adults.

"All the kids are having fun and making everything they want," Kieran declared, as he showed off his share of the Hot Wheels kingdom.

Fortunately, those vehicles that didn't make the leap over the volcano could be cleaned of any accumulated "lava" at the nearby car wash. Another group of enterprising kids thought up that idea, fastening a tattered cheerleader's pom-pom to the open end of a long, narrow cardboard box.

At first glance, the scene in the museum's front courtyard looked similar to the beginnings of a junkyard, but the mess was actually an intricate universe for Hot Wheels created by kids and their families.

"There's a slim pit and car wash made out of a pom-pom," said the event's producer, Ashland resident Alan Parowski, Kipling's father. "It's just brilliant. Grown-ups wouldn't think of this stuff."

Sparking creativity and inquiry was what Parowski intended when he developed the idea for the event, inspired by his son's and his own passion for Hot Wheels (he drove a white Thunderbird with the Hot Wheels logo painted on the side to the event).

"It's sort of all about the kids directing the play and unleashing the kids' imaginations and putting the kids to work," Parowski said. "I grew up during the time of Fat Albert. He and his gang made toys out of junk. It's the same concept."

The museum provided the materials, including 1,000 Hot Wheels plus items such as boxes, PVC pipe, wood, cardboard and other items to construct racetracks and anything else a Hot Wheel might like to race on, over or through. Then, the kids and their families created the Hot Wheels' world.

White City residents Brian and Penny Pankonin, their three kids, niece and nephew constructed a roller-coaster-like racetrack out of a long rod and two racetrack loops. Brian had to continually lift the track higher and higher to build enough momentum for the cars to make both loops.

"It's pretty cool," said Brian's daughter, 9-year-old McKenna.

"There is real physics, and Hot Wheels inspire a can-do attitude in kids," said Chris Giorni, organizer of another museum event called Tree Frog Treks.

"Kids love them. They're like candy, therefore they'll do anything to make them jump, flip and fly. That's how the science occurs."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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