NASCAR Puts Kids on STEM Fast Track

Elizabeth Montalbano

March 23, 2015

3 Min Read
NASCAR Puts Kids on STEM Fast Track

Lots of kids enjoy playing with toy race cars, and some may even dream of being race car drivers when they grow up. NASCAR is taking inspiration from this interest with the launch of an in-school and online learning platform for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, the first ever from the sport of racing.

NASCAR Acceleration Nation focuses on teaching kids about the science behind race cars, in particularly the aerodynamic principles that are necessary for race cars to go as fast as they do -- drag, downforce, and drafting, or "the three D's of speed," according to the racing association.

Acceleration Nation has three key aspects -- an online platform kids and educators can join, an interactive experience for kids and families at racetracks during NASCAR events, and a STEM program created with Scholastic -- longtime publisher of children's school books and other literary resources -- that will be brought to schools throughout the US.


"NASCAR Acceleration Nation is about bringing kids closer to our sport in an entertaining and educational way," said NASCAR COO Brent Dewar, in a press release. "When you look at the speed and design of our race cars and their performance on the track, NASCAR represents a unique platform to teach math and science. Our goal is to make learning these subjects fun for kids."

The online platform allows kids and educators to sign up for Acceleration Nation and gain access to games, activities, and curriculum resources for teaching the NASCAR STEM program in classrooms.

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The website features four activity categories -- Think, Move, Build, and Team Up. Kids can choose which activities they want to participate in. For example, they can test their knowledge of race car engines through a section called "Under the Hood," or answer math equations with a "Flash Cars" activity.

Some online activities are more fun and games than purely educational in an effort to keep kids engaged. There is a quiz they can take to see which NASCAR driver they most resemble, and the RaceFlex racing game, which lets them sign up to earn points and badges for completing online activities.

The NASCAR Acceleration Nation Experience will entertain kids and families onsite at the racetrack during NASCAR national series race weekends. The interactive experience will let kids get up close and personal with a customized NASCAR stock car to learn more about the cars that are competing at the race.

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The supplemental materials for teaching children STEM lessons in the classroom are aimed at elementary and middle school students. They feature lessons and activities around each of the three "D's" of speed that meet state and Next Generation Science standards, according to NASCAR.

The organization plans to distribute the kits to 7,400 classrooms in the US during Acceleration Nation's first year, reaching almost 200,000 students. Teachers also can download the materials for use in their classrooms through the program's website.

Ann Amstuz-Hayes, senior vice president of Scholastic National Partnerships -- which developed the school materials with NASCAR -- said kids are inspired by events around them, which is why Acceleration Nation offers a good mix of educational and recreational activities to get kids more interested in STEM.

"This program is a great example of how the science behind a sport and can be brought to life for students in way that is both educational, relevant, and fun," she said in the press release.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and NYC. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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