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Summer academy has visit from NASCAR driver

Professional NASCAR driver Shaun Mangum, a Union County native, brought some of his crew and two of his race cars to the FastTrack Race Challenge Summer Academy held recently at Central Academy of Technology and Art. Mangum is pictured talking with students about his race car. Below, Jonathan Wingo, 13, from East Union Middle, is pictured with other East Union Middle students documenting data gathered during the class.

A weeklong summer academy at CATA recently helped seventh and eighth graders use real-world applications in math and science, while having fun at the same time.
   
The FastTrack Race Challenge Summer Academy, held at Central Academy of Technology and Art, involved students from East Union, Monroe and Parkwood middle schools.
   
The academy, sponsored by Union County Public Schools Career and Technical Education and Ten80Education, had students work in teams to design a racecar -- employing science, technology, engineering and math. They then built small models to test such things as aerodynamics and how weight distribution affected speed.
   
“We learned that depending on where you put weight on a car, it can change the speed,” said Joshua Winchester, 12, of Sun Valley Middle School. “If you become an engineer who designs cars, you need to know where to distribute the weight.”
   
Beverly Simmons, owner of Ten80 Education in Charlotte, brought her team of engineers to take the lesson from the pages of textbooks and apply them to real world applications.  
   
Organizers said the lessons learned will help these middle school students once they enter high school. “What they’re learning will eventually translate into quadratic equations in high school,” Simmons said. “By the end of eighth grade, they should be able to put an equation together that will describe this. If they’re doing this in middle school, by the time they get to high school, solving an equation will be easy.”
   
Beth Lingle, the UCPS VoCats coordinator, said Career and Technical Education is about exposing students to real world situations in an attempt to prepare them for the future.
   
“At this academy today, we’re hoping to expose middle graders to the importance of math and science,” Lingle said. “Our everyday life is science. And if they can take these applications, what they learn in school, and apply it to real-world activities that we offer in Career and Technical Education, then we are preparing them for their futures.” 
     
“The main thing they’re learning today is that data gives them the answer to something,” Simmons added. “They’re making a graph every time they run the (model) car. They calculate a score, weight times distance, calculated by time, and then they put their score onto a graph. The graph gives them the answer to the challenge. They’re using their math and science to calculate something.”
   
Simmons said her team not only worked with students, but also with teachers, who were present, showing them how to apply these math and science applications to their lessons.
   
Professional NASCAR driver Shaun Mangum, a Union County native, made a guest appearance, bringing some of his crew and two of his racecars. “Everything they’re applying here, we apply to our cars – the mathematics, geometry and the science,” Mangum said. “We’re showing them how we use it on a larger scale. It’s not just about getting in a car and driving any more. It’s all about computers and technology – all the computer skills that make my job easier. I also hope to give these students some insight into what we do. And I hope to show them that, like what they’re doing here today, it’s a team effort on the race track.”
   
“I’ve enjoyed this. They’ve talked a lot about math and I love math,” said Jasrelle Brown, 13, of East Union Middle. “We tried to weight the cars to make them go faster, and then we had competitions. It’s not easy. It’s challenging.”
   
Students seemed to enjoy the learning experience as much as the time around Mangum and his racecars.
   
“It’s pretty cool to see these pro racecar drivers and their cars,” said Oswaldo Fuerte, 12, from Monroe Middle. “Being a racecar driver isn’t easy. Every race, they risk their life. This academy has been challenging, but still interesting.
 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Jul 07, 2008 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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