IndyCar, IMS, and STEM

This past weekend, I attended the IndyCar Kohler Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This is the second year I’ve gone to the race and, again, it didn’t disappoint. Each year, I’ve been fortunate to go as a guest of my oldest brother. He works for St. Vincent Sports Performance and is a Certified Athletic Trainer and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has his Masters in Kinesiology. He knows his stuff. He works with various racing teams to prepare and condition the drivers and crew for the rigors of the season.

Because of his work, we were granted pit and garage access passes for the day. We could enter the garage area, walk around to see the teams prepare, and be on the starting grid up to the minutes before the green flag dropped.

As we were sitting there before the race, my brother turns to me and says, “Growing up, did you ever think you would be sitting here around all these cars and having this experience?”

We grew up in Speedway, Indiana and graduated from Speedway High School. Our town was, and still is, defined by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500. The track, and the events taking place there, drive the town’s economy. Every resident has a passion for the track and it never leaves, no matter where you live.

As a human resources professional, I understand the need for a strong educational foundation to prepare for the workforce. With the continued advancement in technology and innovation, kids can’t start early enough in immersing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs.

As I walked through the garages and watched these engineers and technicians fine tune the cars for the big race, I thought about how they got to where they are. What doors were opened for them? Did they dream of one day driving or preparing a car to race in the IndyCar series?

As we were driving home from the race, many thoughts were racing through my head. How could a hometown kid get an opportunity to work in an industry that she grew up in? How can this historic venue known as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing help to educate and provide opportunity to kids who may never have a chance?

Consider this blog post the first step in educating myself on what IMS and IndyCar are doing to give students an opportunity to learn and be exposed to careers in engineering. 

I would love to see a partnership with IMS and Speedway High School to build a STEM program to prepare students for the workforce. Create a world-class experience to give those kids who dream of one day working or being involved with the Indy 500, auto racing, and other engineering careers. To stress the importance of STEM and highlight careers that allows them to tour the world and experience life outside of Indianapolis.

I’d love to see a partnership with the Indianapolis Public Schools to give kids an opportunity they may never get. Provide training and resources to underfunded schools. Host summer programs with the racing teams based in Indianapolis. Build programs to give females and minorities a chance to break into an industry that could use some diversity.

I’ll be reaching out to Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to learn about the outreach programs currently taking place.

Mr Boles, if you read this, I’d love the opportunity to learn more about how the IMS is cultivating the next generation of engineers and drivers. There are thousands of kids, many just like I was, with dreams to work for the sport. Many with the talent and desire, but maybe not have the financial resources to attend a college or university to get the training they need. Many who attend schools that don’t have the money to provide a strong STEM program.

I envision a STEM program at Speedway High School sponsored and developed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in partnership with the race teams, colleges and universities, and technical training schools. I see an opportunity for scholarships to be given to students who excel in these programs and don’t have the financial means to continue their education. Internship programs with IndyCar teams to expose students to engineering and technical careers.

I’m looking forward to starting this dialogue with the organization that is every bit of a part of me. What a story this would be.

Posted in HR

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