INDIANAPOLIS – The Honda Racing HPD STEAM Connections University Tour received positive reviews this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The program run in conjunction with Purdue University focuses on the sciences, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) vital in motorsports, engineering and automotive development.
A highlight of the tour was the chance for the nearly 1,200 participating students to hear from Verizon IndyCar Series teammates Alexander Rossi and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in separate Q&A sessions over the two days.
“Ryan and Alex were both naturals. I think they enjoyed being there talking about what they did for a living as much as the kids did,” said Bob Dickinson, Dickinson Partners/STEAM Sports Group president. “You could tell by the number of hands raised to ask questions as well as the quality of the questions.
Hunter-Reay told the students that if he had not become a driver, he would have enrolled in a university engineering program. He also urged the students to focus on dedicating themselves to coursework, and “to look into the different paths you can take through the STEAM career routes.”
Hunter-Reay’s teammate Rossi went into more detail on the different types of calculations and measurements that his crew takes while he is speeding around the track. He even took time to praise his assistant engineer, recent Purdue grad Nick Heins.
“There are about 100 sensors on this car, so every time it’s on the track it’s an experiment,” Rossi said.
Tom Reichenbach, Honda Performance Development senior manager and chief engineer, was also in attendance, further explaining to students how aerodynamics and tracking performance characteristics affect an Indy car as it speeds around the track. He spoke about the mechanical and electrical engineering, material science, physics, engine design and software engineering that goes into building a race car.
Mitch Daniels, Purdue University president and former Indiana governor, stopped by to speak to the students and to take a look at the exhibits. One that caught his eye involved first robotics.
In collaboration with the STEAM tour, Purdue brought its electric vehicle (EV) go-kart grand prix to IMS. Daniels visited with the EV students and saw some of the karts that participated. The race stemmed from a $6.1 million grant from the United States Department of Energy. The first race was held in 2010 and has since evolved into two races. The first race contained electric karts with standard motors and batteries, while the second race had karts with upgraded motors and batteries.
Purdue connects the STEAM tour with a program called MSTEM3, which uses the excitement of motorsports to engage students in meaningful science, technology, engineering, arts and math educational activities. The goal of MSTEM3, according to Danny White, Purdue’s director of motorsports and head of MSTEM3, is to change the public view of advanced manufacturing by introducing students to different career paths available and to provide educators with the materials to help students grow.