Seventh-grade students at Charlotte’s Piedmont Middle School enjoyed a break from regular classes Monday thanks to a visit from NASCAR and Xfinity Series driver Matt Tifft, part of a special event to kick off Charlotte race week.
More than 350 students participated in a series of educational activities designed to highlight the intersection of NASCAR and STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The students rotated through a half-dozen interactive stations led by NASCAR engineers, officials and other volunteers to learn how concepts like acceleration, aerodynamics and friction applied to the motorsport.
The event also celebrated the launch of a new digital simulation available for students via NASCAR Acceleration Nation, the sport‘s national youth platform developed in partnership with Scholastic.
“Kids represent the future of the sport, so this was a great opportunity to inspire them to learn about principles like aerodynamics and downforce, but also have them learn about NASCAR,” said Pete Jung, NASCAR vice president of brand marketing. “If we can inspire kids to learn and take an interest in STEM as part of their curriculum or even career path, I think that‘s a home run.”
Tifft, who briefly led and finished fifth in Friday‘s Xfinity Series playoff opener at Richmond, surprised the seventh-graders with ticket vouchers to the Drive for the Cure 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 29.
He also talked about his racing career and how using NASCAR as a backdrop can make learning subjects like math and science especially fun for kids.
“I never realized how much science, math and engineering was a part of racing until I got into it,” said Tifft, driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing. “Everything we do at 200 miles per hour really comes down to those fundamentals, whether it‘s a shock change or track bar change or wedge adjustment.”
“Many of the students don‘t really know what a spoiler is or understand wind resistance, so today they got hands-on experience with building cars and understanding the different parts of the car,” said Teresa Peterson, Piedmont Middle School dean of students for the sixth grade. “It‘s real-life application to what we‘re teaching them every day, which is important because kids need to know there are cool things they can do in the real world where they can apply STEM.”
The STEM event is part of a larger effort to integrate NASCAR into middle-school STEM curriculums across the country. NASCAR Acceleration Nation learning materials use racing to explain principles like drafting, downforce and drag, and are being taught in more than 30,000 classrooms nationwide.
Students can also learn about NASCAR, the tracks and drivers, and play interactive games on the NASCAR Acceleration Nation website and mobile app.