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Behind the Wall with the Next Generation

Our sport is at the vanguard of technological change, and we need a healthy pipeline of talented individuals from all backgrounds coming into the industry to help shape the future to benefit us all.

The rate of technological change will only accelerate, and our educational programs are critical to maintaining our momentum. To prepare for this future, the motorsports industry must provide supportive environments with exciting opportunities for the next generation to participate in.

Motorsport, and the broad eco-system that supports it, is just that: the perfect proving ground to design, test, and deploy the latest technological advances in areas such as product design, new material compounds, and efficient energy management.

The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) this past weekend after a nine-year hiatus. Indiana’s reputation as one of the racing centers of excellence in North America provides the perfect location for motorsport-related education. Several Indiana universities uniquely offer STEM-based motorsport programs critical to our industry’s long-term success.

At IMS, we hosted two dozen STEM students enrolled in Butler University’s Engineering Dual Degree Program (EDDP) with the Purdue School of Engineering & Technology. On race day, I had the honor of leading a garage tour hosted by Action Express Racing to discuss the practical application of advanced technology behind modern-day racing cars. Team members were on hand to engage the assembled students and discuss the details behind their splendid-looking Whelen Engineering livered Cadillac GTP Hybrid race car. GTP cars are the most advanced endurance sports cars racing in North America today; they are the ultimate expression of our four competing manufacturers, Acura, BMW, Porsche, and Cadillac, with Lamborghini entering the grid next season.

We followed up the team visit by stopping at the IMSA Technical Inspection lanes.  The IMSA Technical Inspection staff was in full swing as final pre-race measurements, laser scans verifying homologated components, vehicle weight checks, and ride height and wing angle verifications were taking place.  It was really special for me to introduce this group of future leaders to our talented team members at IMSA. Butler graduate and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles even welcomed the students to the Brickyard.

The bustle and engine roar at the trackside for the Butler students embody their STEM studies. What better workplace to fulfill your passions, apply your talents, and positively impact future product developments?

“The EDDP has been running for five years now.” shared Jessica McCormick, Program Coordinator, “with over 160 students enrolled today, including 45 first-year students.” She explained that internships are mandatory for the program to ensure practical skills are attained.

Exposure to the reality of motorsport through the garage tour is only a tiny step, but an important one, in helping raise awareness of the variety of STEM opportunities available. From my conversations with many students, they left IMS with a deeper understanding of how their potential to impact change can happen on a broader scale as advances shaped in STEM labs are proven on the track and moving into the mainstream automobile industry.

I’m humbled by the opportunity to host this bunch of impressive students and applaud Butler University’s commitment to training our next-generation industry leaders. I don’t think it’ll be long before I meet some familiar faces on pit lane.

See you at the track.

John.