TROY, Michigan – High schoolers’ interest in cars and racing appears to be alive and well, especially when you connect the technology with computers. Mazda Motorsports presented its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math pitch titled Racing Accelerates Creative Education (RACE) to more than 500 students at Troy High School a couple of days before Mazda Prototypes race in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at the Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 4-5. Students gathered around a Mazda Prototype race car outside the high school building after the 45-minute presentation in the auditorium.
Most of the students correctly guessed that the Mazda Prototype is “100 percent computer-designed” and were a bit wowed that the car’s 4G network telemetry sends the equivalent of 127 texts every 5 seconds to help teams adjust their strategy. This falls under the “T” in STEM, which is an initiative to make and keep students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math and to prepare them to study these subjects in college.
“A 200-mph race car, we think, is cool,” RACE presenter Joel Miller, a Mazda race team engineer and driver, told the Troy High School students.
And it’s not just about the engineering that goes into cars. Retired U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer demonstrated how he can use a prosthetic left leg (the result of a 2011 incident in Afghanistan) to operate the clutch pedal in his MX-5 Miata race car. The leg uses programmable Bluetooth technology through a 130,000-hour lithium-ion battery (a figure that very much impressed this young crowd) and has a quick-release in case of a crash.
Miller demonstrated how math is used to calculate racing advantages that can be made by shortening pit times. He touted racing as a discipline that spawns a variety of jobs—not just drivers, engineers, designers, and technicians, but also nutritionists and chefs (to keep drivers healthy, especially in endurance racing), lawyers (to write the contracts), health, medical and safety professionals, even broadcasters. He also noted how despite longstanding gender biases in the STEM disciplines, women have made inroads in all aspects of motor racing.
Mazda Motorsports launched its RACE STEM program in 2014 at the Daytona International Speedway, reaching about 25,000 students so far. Some racetracks (though not Belle Isle) provide passes to the students, and the RACE program provides them with pit radio headphones. Mazda Motorsports also gave its RACE presentation to two high schools in Detroit before the Troy High School assembly.
Mazda’s RACE presentation proved popular and effective, said Troy High School Principal Remo Roncone.
“We’ll have trouble limiting the students participating next year,” Roncone said.