AMBITIOUS plans to turn a North-East town onto the thrills and spills of slot-car racing - and boost manufacturing and engineering skills in schools - are under way.

The idea is to make Darlington the first town in England where every secondary school has a flourishing Scalextric club.

The driving force behind the project is Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Councils lead for economy and regneration.

"I am very impressed at the Scalextric 4 Schools scheme which encourages school students to get involved in building their own racing cars," said Coun McEwan.

"Hopefully we can every secondary school in the town involved, which would be a first in the country," he added.

Coun McEwan has teamed up with technology teacher, Gary Taylor, from the Education Village in Darlington, to try to get the project off the ground.

Mr Taylor already runs an established Scalextric club and is eager to get involved in a town-wide initiative.

Last week representatives from half a dozen Darlington schools attended a briefing about the Scalextric for Schools project at the Education Village.

Also in attendance was Tim Brotherhood, curriculum development officer from PTC, a company which works with Hornby, the owners of Scalextric, to promote the teaching of science, maths and engineering by encouraging students to get involved in building and racing slot-cars.

Mr Brotherhood said: "We are trying to promote maths and science. If we can get maths and science teachers on board, hopefully the students will start to make the links between subjects and design, science and engineering."

Mr Taylor said: "We have been running a Scalextric club for a couple of years based on the Scalextric 4 Schools model but we would love to get all the schools in Darlington involved in competitive racing."

The Education Village already has a range of manufacturing equipment, including lasers, which are used to construct the model racing cars.

As part of Scalextric for Schools, Hornby provide all components at cost price.

Coun McEwan said: "For me it is about having a bit of fun but there is a serious side. If we are going to get more people interested in manufacturing and engineering we need to use small scale projects like this to whet their appetites and get them interested.

"It is probably better than getting them to build bird boxes or making a lampstand," he joked.

He said there was probably an opportunity, once the plans had been finalised, to appeal to older kids, dads and uncles who may have unwanted Scalextric kit who might want to donate equipment to the project.

As part of Scalextric 4 Schools students design their car using the PTC Pro/Engineer 3D modeling software, available free to schools as part of the CAD in Schools initiative.

Students can also race against others in regional finals, with winners competing in a national final.

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