St. Pete middle schoolers had the curtain pulled back at St. Pete’s recent Firestone Grand Prix. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students at John Hopkins and Bay Point middle schools saw the the science behind the event.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch developed the “Team Accelerate” day program. This inaugural event gave the students a behind-the-scenes look at the relationship between auto racing and STEM education.
Students took paddock tours and learned about tires, engines, and other race car components. They visited with part of the pit crew from AJ Foyt Racing and had a lesson in tire tread.
“It was quite interesting how the tires on a normal car are rigid, but the tires on these cars are completely smooth and flat,” said John Hopkins sixth-grader Kaysar Rahmouni. “It made me appreciate the science of not just racing but driving in general.”
After the Firestone Grand Prix tours, students enjoyed lunch with the mayor. They then met several drivers from the Dale Coyne Racing Team. Questions for the team ranged from “How loud is it inside the car?” to “How much money do you make as a race car driver?” to “Do you have to be strong to drive a race car?”
Firestone Grand Prix Takeaways
“We have 65 young minds here who have seen what it takes to put on a car race from a different perspective,” said Welch. “In everything we do, we want to look for opportunities to connect young people to potential careers and open up their mindset into what’s possible.”
Cathie Mullins, director of STEM for Pinellas County Schools, said students learned about possible professions in the racing community. They met materials managers, automotive engineers, and mechanics. They also met people with careers not immediately associated with racing, like graphic designers.
“We like to give our students these experiences, so they have the capacity to dream,” Mullins said. “If they know what’s out there and what the possibilities are, they can create a dream and make it happen through STEM.”
Karmel Douglas, a sixth-grader at Bay Point, said she plans to do just that.
“Today made me think of my dream job as being a racer, actually,” she said.