11th Annual JetToy Competition Marks Kia’s Impact on Over 100,000 Students through AWIM

As the sun lit up the Columbus Convention and Trade Center, 37 volunteers stood inside anxious for the doors to open. On the other side of those walls, children began to arrive as they eagerly anticipated the day. In the mind of a student, few things are more exciting than spring break. For 250 Georgia 5th graders, however, the 11th annual SAE AWIM® JetToy Competition was like making it to the NCAA Division I basketball Final Four.

The SAE AWIM JetToy Competition, supported by Kia Georgia, is something everybody involved looks forward to each year. The competition mirrors SAE’s A World In Motion® (AWIM®) JetToy classroom challenge where students work in teams to design, build, and race balloon-powered cars…but with 10 times the number of children competing. These 5th grade students spent the day in groups, challenging each other and themselves to push the limits of their STEM skills.

Each year, Kia Georgia employees happily volunteer in the event, either to help with setting up or to participate as a track judge on competition day. Patrick Sands, manager of communications at the Kia Georgia plant, emphasized how enjoyable the competition is not only for students, but also volunteers.

“The excitement they have in building their jet toys and racing in the event is contagious. Whether [students] win or lose, they’re working together and they’re sharing [ideas]…[Getting to witness this] makes it very rewarding for our team members [here at Kia Georgia] and everyone who’s been working [to plan the event]”

Joanne Mabrey, AWIM Program Manager for Community Relations at Kia Georgia.

“People here love being a part of this event and anybody’s going to do anything they can to rearrange their schedule to be [involved],” she said. They’re hoping to get more volunteers in the classroom again after COVID-19 halted participation, expanding their impact even greater.

No matter the outcome of the competition itself, students gained valuable experience in problem-solving and collaboration while also learning STEM concepts in a unique, fun way. Mabrey recounted an inspiring example of resilience and teamwork where she witnessed a group of students who were confident that they were going to win an award. When they didn’t place, one of the students was deeply disappointed. Mabrey said the rest of the team “pulled together to support him and tell him that it’s OK…that they were still a team.” They reminded him that, “they still had [this] experience that they shared, regardless of whether they actually won an award or not.” A valuable life lesson about perspective.

“The JetToy Challenge Event was a highlight! All students were so excited and enjoyed participating in the day’s activities. I am always reminded at this event how exceptional this whole experience is for them while witnessing the students engaged with their JetToy design, build, and test process! It truly fits our TCSS motto ‘A Place for Every Kid’ as they learn and practice a myriad of soft and technical skills while problem solving,”

Charles Freeman, Literacy Facilitator and AWIM Coordinator, Troup County School System.

During the opening of the competition, SAE Foundation recognized Kia for their astounding impact on over 100,000 students from 2012-2024 through their support of AWIM through the SAE Foundation.

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