By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Students, start your engines!

This will be the sound Saturday morning as nearly 200 students from all over the country converge at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge: NASCAR STEM Initiative national finals.

This event is the “practice league” through which future engineers, scientists, marketing, and creative professionals actively embrace their present and prepare for their futures. Students optimize performance of 1:10 scale radio-controlled (RC) cars, paralleling the activity happening in NASCAR garages across the country.

Why motorsports?

Because, industry sources explained, it is the only sport truly won or lost in real time by applying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. It is also a diverse industry that employs people with a broad range of interests and skill sets.

Last year 165 students nationwide participated at Daytona.

Beverly Simmons, a former middle school science teacher and vice chair of the Ten80 STEM Education Center, a non-profit based in Charlotte dedicated to expanding student access to STEM education, said this event really gets students excited about learning by applying STEM in a way that showcases a scaled version of NASCAR’s hidden high-tech world.

“Students utilize valuable and employable skills that include marketing, aerodynamics, engineering, creativity, alternative energy, business development, and project management with their work,” said Simmons. I’m so excited what’s happening right now after doing this about 12 years. This is how many envision STEM learning to be executed.”

Simmons explained that there are 100 student teams with an average of 10 members per team. There will be eight different events happening simultaneously giving students the opportunity to work hands-on and apply knowledge in a fun, fast-paced, real-world environment.

Last year’s national champion was from North Carolina – Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte. This year’s winners will receive cash prizes, grant money, and a wide assortment of sponsor prizes and gifts. Plans are in the works to award scholarships next year as the group expands in more states.

Ten80 Student Racing Challenge: NASCAR STEM Initiative formerly was called FastTrack RC.

Ten80 partners include NASCAR, Texas Instruments, 4H, The SME Education Foundation, SolidWorks, and the North Carolina Motorsports Association; all entities that share the same, progressive vision for education.

Saturday’s event is free and open to the public. View event flyer.

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