Burns Students Take STEM Skills To NASCAR Student Racing Challenge National Championships

By Tamas Mondovics

Burns middle school students had a chance to measure up their science, technology, engineering, and math skills, through some high-tech racing this month as they attended the 2013 NASCAR S.T.E.M. Ten80 Student Racing Challenge National Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Kids often ask ‘why am I learning this, or when am I ever going to use any of this stuff,’” said former race car driver and Burns Middle School technology teacher, Bobby Diehl. “This is where NASCAR comes into the equation with its ‘Student Racing Challenge’ program designed to help kids put their STEM skills to good use.”

The event is part of NASCAR’s annual Sprint Cup All Star Race, featuring students that use radio controlled (RC) cars and perform tasks such as constant speed straight runs to see if they can control the throttle without breaking set time limits and recording times to determine medians.

Diehl emphasized that his students involved with the program learn the new Common Core Concepts of math and science and incorporate them through technology and engineering as they perform various tasks such as time trials using stop watches and measuring track lengths, which helps them understand place values and metric and standard measurements and conversions.

Building race tracks using scale drawings and utilizing algebraic concepts to experiment in physical science laws such as force, mass, and acceleration, and measuring time versus distance in real world experiments helps students see the units of measurements in action.

“The skills gained from the eight initial tasks help prepare students for mandatory standardized testing like the FCAT,” Diehl said, adding that the skill sets influence students to gain interest in careers in engineering, mechanics, graphics, marketing, public relation, future fuels, science, technology, and much more.

“The program is based not only around the world of motor sports and NASCAR, but also weaves in the variety of many other technical careers and industries within the community,” Diehl said.

Of course attending such an event is not without some obstacles such as developing the budget for expenses to get to the championship, which meant that the students had to raise the funds themselves by contacting local businesses for support.

Bloomingdale Pizza and the Brandon Chili’s offered to host spirit night fundraisers as the students also contacted other businesses for sponsorship and were able to secure support from The Visiting Angels (a senior care company), FishHawk Family Eye Care and Pro Way Paving Systems of Riverview (who is resurfacing an area for the RC Race Track outside of the classroom).

Team MK Racing (signage and vehicle wraps) and CNC Screen Printing (a T-shirt and printing company) also offered their expertise.

The students have developed the official “Team Burns Racing” T-shirts that are now available for a donation of $10, all of which will help support their funding drive.

To cover the cost and travel expenses of their once-in-a-lifetime trip, Burns students welcome donations and community support.

Persons interested helping or in obtaining more information may email Bobby Diehl at fastruckinc@aol.com, or via phone at 817-7223.