A century of speed has rolled across the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. Starting in 1914, with “Terrible” Teddy Tetzlaff, the velocity milestones are still rising, roaring and raging. The 2014 racing season brings Kaylin Stewart, a rookie 16 year-old teenager to the starting line determined to set a class record in excess of 200 miles per hour.
First-time racers at the Bonneville Salt Flats are affectionately called “salt virgins” because running on the panoramic sodium-soaked pancake always imparts startling insight about its many hidden difficulties. Every smarty pants who thinks otherwise gets a life lesson that hopefully doesn’t cost too much in crunched parts and bunched undies. Containers of cash won’t ease the pain either. The original salt virgin came to this hallowed speed Mecca back in 1914. “Terrible” Teddy Tetzlaff was the King of the West Coast drivers, a two-time winner of the Santa Monica road races and holder of innumerable course speed records.
The officials from the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and the Bonneville Nationals, Inc. (BNI) who together — for more than 60 years –have produced the world famous Bonneville time trials each August selected “LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth’s photo of the Speed Demon Streamliner for the the 2010 Speedweek Press Pass. All members of the media who intend to cover the thrilling week-long event will be required to register with the SCTA media office to obtain the coveted credential.
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 Expertsfor 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
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.
Louise Ann Noeth founded LandSpeed Productions in 1984 because she got tired of people thinking she only did one thing. After years of freelancing she had developed a variety of storytelling skill sets that includes:
• Creative Writing
• Stock Library
• Fine Art
• Graphic Design
• Public Relations
A fancy moniker for what she does is “photojournalist”, but she prefers “storyteller” believing people relate better to a tantalizing tale than an “English Major” perfect new report.