Collaborate. Create. Compete. Army Racing Drives STEM Education.
April 18, 2014
By T.M. Beller
NEW YORK (April 24, 2014) -- In an effort to help cultivate a public more literate in science, technology, engineering and science (STEM) and help prepare students for high-tech futures, the U.S. Army, Don Schumacher Racing, TEN80 Education and the National STEM League, invested in New York City's youth April 11, 2014, at Medgar Evers College for a student racing challenge among a number of middle and high schools.
"The Student Racing Challenge is a project-based curriculum for students in grades six through 12 built on the themes of motorsports and safe, sustainable transportation," said Terri Stripling, president and founder of Ten80 Education, an academic organization that is expanding the number of students inspired to engage in STEM learning.
"Students work together in teams and compete through challenges that directly parallel the arduous preparation of real National Hot Rod Association teams, underscoring the importance of science, technology, engineering and math in our lives and our futures."
Outfitted in brightly-colored team t-shirts, approximately 250 students grouped into teams of four, accompanied by an Army group leader, rotated through three, hands-on learning laboratories in order to collaborate, create and compete against each other for the grand prize -- a remote controlled racecar for the winning school.
At the first obstacle, the Racing & Energy Challenge, teams participated in a noisy, yet active, racecar relay, using speed and angles of travel to engineer the performance of an electric racecar.
They interacted with Tom Patsis, a team member of Don Schumacher Racing, who builds top fuel dragsters for seven-time champion Tony Schumacher.
"The Army is always innovating and leading research to keep our Soldiers at the forefront of technology for their advancement and safety," said Patsis. "The same can be said of NHRA where advancements in technology impact on-track performance and driver safety every day."
At the second rotation, the Rover & Innovation Challenges, students combined software and hardware to solve problems using mathematics and a handheld blinking device.
"The blinker replicates the language spoken by computers -- 0s and 1s -- which is called binary code," said Ashwin Wagadarikar, a scientist working with Ten80 Education. "They have to figure out how to decode this binary code in these exercises and then transmit a message back to us in binary code using the blinker." Definitely scientific and mathematical!
In the final challenge, the Enterprise Challenge, students, acting as owners of their team's motorsports company, tested their marketing and design skills.
"Students are given 30 minutes to design their team's name, color scheme and desired sponsors for their racing company before pitching their winning idea to the judge in 60 seconds or less," said Cindy Wann, a Ten80 marketing presenter. "At the end of the competition, the judge will select the three best team pitches, and those three teams will compete again for the title of best pitch and for additional points."
In the end, Medgar Evers College Preparatory School cleaned house with not only the highest score of 330 points.
Each school that participated in this National Stem League competition is eligible to have the Army activate a sponsorship for curriculum and a competition, said Strickland.
"During these challenges, students must use things like physics and math to solve these problems because much of this type of work is data driven and about creative design," said Alfred Santilli, a technology education teacher employed by Riverside High School of Engineering and Design located in Yonkers, N.Y.
For Soldiers like Staff Sgt. Keegan Waldrop, an Army recruiter, the Ten80 Education event was more than a break from standard recruiting activities. It was a new method of interacting with his target market.
"Many kids don't know what STEM does for them," said Waldrop. "They don't even know that the Army has STEM careers and STEM initiatives. I think Ten80 and the racing platform achieved a greater sense of awareness with these students here today, and it helps us open up their eyes to other STEM opportunities in the Army, should they wish to pursue that route. Ten80 does a fantastic job, and I'd like to work with them again if I can."
By partnering with Ten80 Education, the Army works toward changing the public's perception of today's Army. As we withdraw from Afghanistan and other footprints around the globe and continue our transformation into the Army of 2020, the Army is placing more of an emphasis on the organization's ability to think, build and create, leveraging science, technology, engineering and math at every turn.
"In an increasingly technical world, education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math has become much more important," said Lt. Col. Richard B. Gussenhoven, a professor of military science at the City College of New York and a guest speaker at the National STEM League competition. "The U.S. Army is more technologically advanced than ever before. Whether you're talking about aviation, space, cyber defense or even artillery, the Army needs Soldiers who are smart enough to operate and maintain equipment, and to make critical decisions in complex situations. The future of our Army and our nation depends on it."