NASCAR coming to a school near you maybe yours!
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It takes a lot of geometry and physics to get a race car to go 200 laps at speeds that can top 200 mph.
In a nod to the often overlooked science behind races like the Daytona 500, NASCAR is announcing a years-long commitment to promote "STEM" inside classrooms and out. STEM is the buzzword for science, technology, engineering and math.
The NASCAR Acceleration Nation initiative focuses on the three D's of speed. That's downforce, drafting and drag. The initiative includes instructional materials for teachers.
The effort is a way for NASCAR to show the fun side of engineering and math. And to encourage fans to view NASCAR in a new way, said Brent Dewar. He is the racing organization's chief operating officer.
"A lot of people see cars racing and they love the sport for the sporting element of cars winning, and racing and passing," Dewar said. "Behind all of that is pure science. It's the horse power. And it's drag and it's aerodynamics."
Driver Carl Edwards was a substitute teacher in Columbia, Missouri. That was long before he became known for his back-flip off cars after winning races. For him, one of the biggest teaching challenges was keeping students' attention. He hopes that bringing race cars into science discussions will spark interest.
Edwards said that with every lap, scientific data is involved. The science includes tracking the statistical probability of crashing at different parts of the race. Or determining the amount of fuel used by the engine at different speeds. Although he said he still uses the science and math he learned in school, Edwards wishes he'd learned even more.
"You can take any part of the car and talk about how it was engineered and why it's designed the way it is to interact with the rest of the race car. And there's a physics or a math or a science lesson in any of that," he said.
As part of the initiative, NASCAR partnered with publisher Scholastic Corp. Fact sheets and quizzes have been developed focused on aerodynamics, primarily for middle school teachers.
Here is an example of the topics.
Why can race cars in a drafting formation lined up behind each other go faster than cars moving solo?
The answer is that the air acts like a vacuum and sucks trailing cars forward. Leading cars also get a boost because the trailing cars push high-pressure air over the leading cars' spoilers.
About 7,400 kits will be mailed to teachers. Teachers can also go online to download the material. They can see online demonstrations. The effort includes a website for fans with math and other games. There is an interactive play area that children and teens can visit on race days.
Critical thinking challenge: How does NASCAR benefit from this initiative?
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