“They are … incredibly bright and dedicated,” Jones said of the teams of contestants. “There are few challenges in my life that I can say have been more difficult than participating in this competition.
“Kids will pour over these cars for years – one or two years – before they ever get it here. And then, at the worst possible time, something will fail.
“They will be 100 miles down the road [with] no towns nearby, they’ll have an axle broken – a custom machined part – and say, ‘Now what,’” Jones said.
“But the thing is these kids are so resourceful. Every time they will pick up the car and they will put it back together and they will keep going.
They have never failed. I have never had a team here, in 17 years I have been involved with this, that has outright failed at this,” Jones stated.
“The reason why this project is so great is this is the first real-world experience they are every going to have. They are forced to work together in a team. They are forced to do the fundraising. None of these cars is cheaper than about $20,000, plus another
$5,000-$10,000 to haul the team across [the country]. That is not going to just get handed to them. They actually have to go and work for it,” he explained.
Jones said the project is too big to have someone step in and help.
“They have to pick themselves up when they fall. It truly is a safe and good opportunity for them to experience what a real-world project is like.
“These kids are sharp and they know how to think outside the box,” he added. “They can get the formal education later on, but they’ve learned more life lessons than someone would normally learn.”