IndyCar should become the IndyCar Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Series in 2015.
I give Collete Davis -- science brain, race car driver and Woman of pressdog® -- full credit for this idea. It was Colette who first made me realize that racing in general and IndyCar racing in particular is rolling STEM. IndyCar should use that fact to reach out to young fans, differentiate itself from other forms of racing, and simultaneously encourage the next generation to pursue careers in STEM fields.
What Collete did while a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was go to high schools and use racing to drive home the point that science can be dead sexy.
Plus, there’s a national push to get kids into the fields of Science Technology Engineering and Math because, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce:
- In 2010, 1 out of every 18 jobs (for a total of 7.6 million jobs) was in a STEM field.
- Jobs in STEM fields will grow 17% between 2008 and 2018, compared to 9.8% growth in non-STEM jobs over the same period.
- People with STEM-related degrees earn more than those without STEM-related degrees, even if they don't work in STEM fields. Read the full study here.
Proposal: Connect the IndyCar brand with STEM. How?
- At every stop on the IndyCar circuit, drivers and engineers take a show car to a local high school and give a demonstration about how IndyCar racing is STEM in action.
- Send an advance team of mechanics a day before they are needed at the track to get into high school and tech school auto shop classes to show all the techno-lunacy they do.
- Dispatch people like Colette, Sarah Fisher and other female science role models to the classrooms to talk to junior high students, especially girls, about how it’s cool to be a science nerd and they shouldn’t be afraid to rock the STEM if that’s what their good at.
- Help sponsor national vehicle-related science contests, etc.
- Make IndyCar engineers ROCK STARS.
THEN, invite high school and college science clubs to come to the track on race weekend. Give them the backstage passes. Treat them like they are $7-million sponsors; let them see how it all works and generally geek out on the Festival of Science.
Here in Des Moines, we have Des Moines Area Community College (and Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids) with a festival of automotive tech and I.T. students who would likely froth over everything that happens backstage at IndyCar. That's on top of the science-brain students at our local high schools. I have a vision of 1500 cool-kid science students every place IndyCar stops rocking the IndyCar-related t-shirts and stuff.
NASCAR with its beat-and-bang brand can’t suddenly differentiate itself with science, but IndyCar … pocket protectors are part of its DNA. Science is a big deal in IndyCar and in America. Science is relevant to the drive to make passenger cars and trucks more reliable and more efficient with more electronic do-dads on them all the time.
Connect IndyCar with STEM, which is only going to get bigger in the future.