I spent the morning and half the afternoon listening to America’s brain trust talk about how they were making tomorrow better by working out today’s problems in federal laboratories all across the country. This was the annual meeting of the Federal Laboratory Consortium whose organizers had asked me to give the keynote luncheon presentation on land speed racing. As a mere high school graduate who only got college education by sneaking into classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology, impressed doesn’t begin to explain my thoughts about hanging out some of the best brains on the planet, but let’s just say I slept easier that night knowing knowing these people were on our side.
What bothered me was how nearly every one of these brainiacs cried about how hard it was to get, and hold the attention of, young people — part of an outreach program every lab has to encourage students to take up study paths in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The idea is to keep the educational pipeline filled with future candidates for the labs. Places like NASA, NIH, DOD, CDC and US Air Force Academy.
I sat in one audience after another listening to their elegant tales of woes and thought to myself, “I’ve never met a kid, boy or girl, that wasn’t fascinated by a land speed racing machine, they ought to use the fastest cars, trucks and motorcycles on earth as the teaching metaphor so the kids won’t get bored and tune out.”
At a cocktail party that evening I mentioned my thoughts to a number of giant brains who introduced me to Caroline Hardman from the National Network of Digital Schools, part of Lincoln Interactive, an “e” learning company in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The result? It was an educational speed record where we went from concept to contract in a few weeks. As I write this we are a few weeks from completing an 18-lesson study course for middle schools students that will not only provide a comprehensive accredited educational curriculum, but expose kids to a broad spectrum of technical and scientific career paths. This Cutting Edge Science educational course, Engineering the Future is meant to be a “captivating” primer to the whole engineering field, to expose students to the many segments available to them, not to try to teach them to be any one segment of the profession.
The number of graduates in these fields in recent years is scary short of what this country needs. In fact, there is direct relationship between the end of the US Space program and the dramatic fall-off of engineering degrees in the country. The”bleed-over” effect has slammed Great Britain as well. That’s why Richard Noble’s 1,000MPH Bloodhound project is touting education over the record-setting goal. Well, that and because road racer pal Paul Drayson also happens to swing a lot of political torque as the UK Minister of Science and asked the boys to help bolster the educational needs of the nation.
Helping me do this the same fine thing here in the States are some very kind and generous people from motorsports, with particular emphasis on land speed racing. They are the “Subject Matter Experts” and while I could have written most of the content myself, it occurred to me the bigger vision was to have as many people in the sport take part so that in the end the very people who give the sport its vitality and its verve would vicariously teach the children.
On behalf of young students I am very grateful to all that the people listed below agreed to join with me to inspire young minds to take up science, technology, engineering and math courses. If we can inspire children when they are young, and full so many tomorrows, to take up a STEM study path, the whole world will be better for it. And by using land speed racing as the teaching metaphor, we ought to have a bunch of fun doing it.
I publicly thank the Engineering the Future Subject Matter Experts for their contributions!
LEGEND: Color-coded names denote a special racing achievement distinction for the individual.
200MPH Club Life Member – Class Record Holder
300MPH Chapter – Class Record Holder, also a member of the 200MPH Club.
WLSR – World Land Speed Record (WLSR) in excess of 400MPH, also a life member of the both the 200MPH Club and the 300MPH Chapter.
CRH – Class Record Holder
ODB – Owner/driver/builder
Eric Ahlstrom, Fossett LSR
Ron Ayers, Aerodynamicist, ThrustSSC, JCB Dieselmax, Bloodhound
Dave Brant, Race Car/Motorcycle Builder, Brant Engineering, BWS Streamliner, CRH 180MPH Class K/FS, 1998 SCTA Points Champion
Tom Burkland, ODB, 411 streamliner – WLSR 415MPH
Paul Carosa, VP Engineering, AC Propulsion, White Lightning Streamliner WLSR 245MPH
Dave Dahlgren, data acquisition Zen master, Engine Management Systems, CRH???
Bonner Denton, ODB,#3000 AA/BGMS, CRH 298MPH, Galileo Professor of Chemistry and Geosciences, University of Arizona
Ken Duttweiler, master engine builder, Duttweiler Performance,
Nord Embroden, WLSR holder, land yacht designer & builder, NORD Design
Pete Farnsworth, Builder, Reaction Dynamics, Blue Flame Rocket – WLSR 622MPH
Don Ferguson II, ODB, Ferguson Racing, CRH 302 MPH Class XXF/BFS
Don Ferguson III, ODB, Ferguson Racing, SCTA President
George Fields, ODB, Trackmaster Fabrication, Trackmaster Competition Coupe, CRH, 3??MPH
Rick Gold, owner, ERC Racing Fuels, www.ercracingfuels.com
Travis Heap, Crew Chief, Phoenix Diesel Race Truck, CRH 272MPH Class U/DT
Curtis Halvorson, driver, Mormon Missile, engine builder, CRH 305MPH, WLSR 341.165MPH
Seth Hammond, ODB, #77 Lakester, CRH
Ed Hillstrom, team member, Buckeye Bullet Electric/Hydrogen streamliner, BNI Record Holder
Tom Klein, Mechanical Engineering Masters Degree, master engine builder, Klein Engine Technologies
Jerry Kugel, ODB, Kugel Komponents – World Land Speed Record Holder, CRH
Joe Law, ODB, Grumpy Old Men Lakester, CRH, C/BFL 349MPH
Les Leggitt, master engine builder, CRH
Mike Lefevers, master engine builder , Mitech Racing Engines, CRH
Dr. Tim Leverton, JCB Dieselmax, CRH, WLSR 350MPH
Roy Lewis, ODB, Chassis Engineering, CRH 306.8MPH
Craig McCarthy, Chief Engineer, Aerodine Engineering & Aerodine Composites
Dan Metz, ODB & University Professor, Motorsports Consultant
Terry Moreau, ODB, Moreau & McBride streamliner, CRH 224MPH, ESC Systems, www.oneliterlandspeed.com
Mike and Terry Nish, OBD, Nish Motorsports, #998 streamliner, CRH, Top Speed: 386MPH
Richard Noble, ODB, Thrust II & ThrustSSC – WLSR / 633MPH
James Rice, ODB, CRH, Owner, Chronologic Timing, Official Supplier of Timing Equipment to SCTA, BUB, BNI, FIA, FIM, USAC, ACCUS and AMA, sanctioned events — http://www.chronologictiming.com/
Pat Rummerfield, Driver, White Lightening Electric Streamliner, WLSR 245MPH
Harry Schoell, Inventor of the Cyclone-Schoell Cycle Engine
Nick and Ken Smith, Drive Train Experts, Hot Rod Works, www.hotrodworks.com
Bob Stroud, Principal, Stroud Safety, parachute & safety equipment www.stroudsafety.com
Rex Svoboda, 411 streamliner crew, CRH
Al Teague, ODB, Spirit of 76 streamliner – WLSR 409MPH
David R. Thom, Collision and Injury Dynamics, Inc
Dan Warner, driver, SCTA Speed Records Official, CRH 230MPH
Sam Wheeler, ODB, EZ Hook Motorcycle streamliner, fastest speed to date 355.303 MPH
Oscar B. Will, Automotive Tech Instructor, ASE Master Technician, GM Certified Service Manager
Chuk Williams, ODB, Land Speed Steam Car
Dan Wright, ODB, USFRA Chief Tech Inspector, #677 Streamliner, CRH
If you want to know more about the course, check out The National Network of Digital Schools that offers an impressive range of interactive coursework, developed by experienced educators and professionals, and supported by a network of certified Teacher Facilitators. This is dynamic curricula — for lifelong learners.
website at: http://www.nndsonline.org/