OKINAWA CITY, Okinawa — For 8-year-old Clayton Groth, the key to winning a car race lies mainly in the design of the car.

“In racing, especially video game racing, it’s luck. But racing on a track, it mostly depends on the build of the car,” Clayton said.

Clayton was among dozens of youngsters putting their mechanical skills to test Sunday during a miniature car race at the Okinawa City Children’s Zoo.

The Kids Engineer Project was sponsored by the 18th Wing Public Affairs, Community Relations division and zoo officials.

Relying on his skills gained from watching Popular Mechanics DVDs and with a little help from his father, Clayton built a battery-operated, four-wheel drive speed machine.

The white Tamiya Bison Magnum — with its blue and red flames and green rims — took just over an hour to build, according to Clayton, a fourth-grader at Amelia Earhart Intermediate School.

The mini-race attracted more than 50 young mechanics and their parents. Supplies and plastic car kits were provided for a small fee.

Cars whizzed around an outdoor race track spanning more than 260 feet, many surpassing speeds of 12 mph. Prizes were awarded.

Around the workroom Sunday, it was hard to tell who was having more fun: the youngsters or their parents — mainly enthused dads tinkering with screws, grips and soldering irons.

“This brings back memories from when my brother and I used to do this,” said Jesse Taylor, whose wife is in the Air Force.

Taylor and his son, Kymani, 10, had opted to build a candy red hot rod with fancy head and tail lights.

“It’s hard, all these pieces I have to put together,” said Kymani, a fourth-grader at Kadena Elementary School. He stared at the parts on the table in front of him, as his father soldered the circuit board.

He was more confident about his car coming in first.

“Me. I’m going to win,” Kymani said.

Across the table, Hiroshi Harada helped his two sons screw in the nuts and bolts of their cars. Like Kymani, the brothers had picked the electronic car kit with lights and had their car bodies spray-painted a dazzling gold.

“This is difficult,” said Tomoaki Harada, 10. “I’m more worried about putting the pieces together than winning.”

Tomoaki, a fifth-grader, and his brother, Kazuaki, 9 and in fourth grade, attend Shiohira Elementary School and live in Toman City.

But for Harada, a doctor, the activity was more about bonding.

“I usually don’t get to spend too much time with my sons,” he said. “So this is good, this is fun.”

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