INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – Verizon IndyCar Series stars Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi took delight in extolling the virtues of a STEAM education to more than 1,300 Indiana middle and high school students the past two days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
STEAM – the acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and math – is an initiative undertaken by Honda, one of the engine and aero kit manufacturers in Verizon IndyCar Series. The Honda STEAM Connections Tour puts together drivers, engineers from teams and Honda and students in numerous INDYCAR race markets to spark interest in the racers and engineers of tomorrow.
For the second consecutive year in association with Honda, the program at IMS teamed with Purdue University as part of its MSTEM3 Student Fair. MSTEM3 stands for Motorsports STEM for Manufacturing and Medicine.
Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, went in-depth to explain the elements on an Indy car during his Q&A session with students on Monday.
“What I like to do to when I’m up there talking is to try and explain the wing angles and everything else to these kids,” said Rahal. “Just so they can see a little bit more of what we’re doing and give them something to follow and look forward to during a race.
“It’s just a really good platform and great to see Honda is heavily involved in that. Everything’s good.”
Danny White, the director of motorsports at Purdue’s Office of Engagement, said the objective of the program to help prepare students as they progress toward colleges and careers.
“The STEM initiative is pretty important,” said White, who was the fueler for Eddie Cheever’s win in the 1998 Indianapolis 500. “We’ve got a workforce issue in Indiana and a STEM workforce issue as well. We’ve got to get a lot of kids that are trained in quickly in some very highly skilled, advanced technology.
“When you look at the overall event, what we’re trying to do with the MSTEM, as an example, is we’re trying to expose these kids to a lot of different careers and a lot of different options for college. Hopefully, they can find their passion and find where they need to go to fulfill those dreams and go forward in the workforce or college. In both programs, we are very focused on college and career readiness.”
Rossi is a repeat speaker at the Honda STEAM events. He discussed the importance of developing young talent in all forms of racing as technology continues to advance.
“We need as many new minds in motorsports as possible,” said Rossi, driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian.
“We all know how motorsports is a changing environment and everything. Getting a younger audience is a main priority for all series across the world and it’s not only getting a young fan base, it’s about getting young people involved in the sport. You go up and down pit lane and, as much as there’s a lot of hugely talented engineers, there’s also not a lot of very young ones.
“It’s important for the longevity of our sport to have a lot of young people interested in all aspects of motorsports, not just driving. This is one of the places we can share our stories and our background for it and hopefully get them interested in INDYCAR.”
One of the best stories the 25-year-old Californian shared was how he earned his victory as a rookie last year in the celebrated 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. Rossi had to outlast the field in a fuel-mileage race to the end.
“I think it’s fitting considering we’re in Indianapolis and about on the one-year anniversary now,” Rossi said. “It’s a very cool story because it was about me saving fuel, but it was also about a group of (engineering) people behind me that had a crazy idea and had to do the math to make it happen; to give me the advice, the instructions and numbers on how to do that.
“Not just numbers they thought would work, but exact ones that legitimately got us to the point where we were able to pull it off. That wouldn’t have happened if people didn’t fully believe in what we were doing and were incredibly talented at their job.”