Education’s race to the top is easier with INDYCAR program
Sixth-grade science students from Montgomery Village Middle School have to design a better car bumper as a class project this fall and got a head start on their project with the help of the INDYCAR Future of Fast STEM Education Program.
|IndyCar won't be back to Baltimore so this program of getting Maryland' kids interested in IndyCar won't reach the desired effects. Baltimore had too many fans to accommodate a date change. They prefer to race on some oval in Podunk where you can shoot a cannon in the grandstands and not hit anyone.|
INDYCAR, which sponsored the Baltimore Grand Prix Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, invited teachers to apply for the new educational program which connects the science of racing with classroom learning.
After hearing of the program from her husband, who is a INDYCAR fan, MVMS science teacher Kathryn Spivey signed up right away, hoping to win a spot for her students. Hers was the only Montgomery County school among the eight Maryland schools invited to Baltimore for the program.
The INDYCAR Future of Fast curriculum includes five stations which the students rotate through, each referred to as a “pod.” The Car Pod offers an introduction to the force of wind. With cars racing at over 200 mph, they use a specially designed wing to prevent lift. Students measured the performance of the wind in a wind tunnel.
The Engine Pod brought the idea of horsepower alive to the students as they discovered how much horsepower they could produce as a team and compared it to that produced by an Indy Car engine. The Safety Pod covered the construction of barriers such as those used for driver and viewer safety during INDYCAR races. The Tire Pod helped students understand the dynamics of grip and the Fuel Pod demonstrated the production of gas for energy.
“Montgomery County curriculum [includes] making a safer bumper to make a real world connection [with science],” Spivey said. “Also horsepower and force is part of the first unit and how gas is created, we do in the fourth unit.”
The students did not actually watch the race, but were able to get close to the race cars and see the race’s staging area near Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Jhanaijia Daughtrey, 10, was among the 50 students who made the trip to Baltimore Aug. 29 for the science program.
“The most valuable thing I would say was all of it,” Jhanaijia said. “The hands-on experience gives me a chance to see what it [will be] like when I go to college and study engineering.”
Elijah Hyson, 12, said one of his favorite activities was testing to see which soda, a hot one or a cold, would create gas fastest when yeast interacted with the sugar in the soda. It was an example of producing fuel using fermentation similar to the process of making denatured ethanol fuel which is mixed with gasoline to power the real race cars.
To see the results students placed rubber gloves over the top of the cans and watched them fill with oxygen.
“The cold one was slow, the hot one was faster, but the cold one got biggest,” he said.
It was part of a lesson on producing fuel using fermentation.
Tattiana Ledon, 11, said her group participated in a contest to see who could make the best and safest race barrier, an important element in INDYCAR races since the races take place on city streets.
“We made it out of Styrofoam, straws, paper and glue, then tested it,” she said. “[Ours]stayed in place but ripped a little.”
The INDYCAR Future of Fast STEM Education Program began last year and had stops planned for five cities in addition to Baltimore for 2013.
“Our sport is deeply rooted in science and engineering so it’s important for us to create opportunities for students to see the connection between what they study and real-world situations,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent company of INDYCAR, in a statement. “This is another way for us to reach youngsters to help ignite their interest in math and science, and it’s a way for us to become more involved in the communities where we compete.”
The real race for Spivey was to get buses and permission slips organized for 50 sixth-graders within the first three days of school. But, she said she was glad she did it.
“It was an experience I don’t think [the students] will ever have and, as a teacher, I think part of my job is to give them experiences they won’t have and to make connections to what they are doing in the classroom,” she said.
Elijah said it was a good trip for him, and remembered one more thing he especially liked about the day.
“My favorite station was about tires,” he said. “A race car, when it is rainy, will slip and crash so they have to change their tires.”
That was an example of mechanical grip, according to the program’s curriculum. A practical application of a scientific principal Elijah and his classmates will be learning this year. Maryland Gazette