Rossi, Herta, Oliveras Wow Students with STEAMy Message at San Jose State
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Cambrian Academy headmaster David Delgado’s note that karting was part of the school’s physical education program elicited a collective “ooh” from the student audience.
“Wow! I want to go to that school,” added Verizon IndyCar Series driver Alexander Rossi. “That’s really cool.”
The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and team owner and former racer Bryan Herta were among the featured presenters Sept.14 during the Honda STEAM Connections Tour at San Jose State University.
More than 250 area middle school and high school students were joined by thousands of college students on the main pedestrian thoroughfare to tour displays from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering’s Formula SAE programs, and Rossi’s No. 98 Honda-powered race car and its Andretti-Herta Autosport transporter. Rossi and Herta addressed the students, fielded questions and signed autographs to close the program.
The goal of the Honda STEAM Connections Tour is to promote the sciences, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) that play a vital role in motorsports and automotive development.
“An event like this takes technology out of the classroom textbooks and allows students to hear about how it applies to the racetrack now and in the future,” said Honda Performance Development engineer Luiz Oliveras between waves of student groups eager to ask questions about Rossi’s race car and his role in making it quick on the track. “It’s the interaction between learning and reality.”
The Silicon Valley is home to a growing number of automotive- and transportation-related companies focused on emerging technologies, and San Jose State plays a major role in the supply chain of talent. The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering’s multi-faceted program recently was ranked third in the nation among public universities by U.S. News & World Report.
“This event is important for students who probably have not seen a race car in person or known about the engineering disciplines behind its development, seen anything like the university students’ robotics or (Formula SAE) Baja projects, or have known about exciting career opportunities that will be available in a decade,” said Dr. Freidoon Barez, chair of the Aerospace Engineering program and Formula SAE advisor.
“Advancement in technology opens their eyes. When they see a fancy sports car, they say ‘Wow!’ and want to be a part of it. Not as a race driver but somebody who is going to design it. And how often do you get to meet a race car driver?”
Rossi, 24, of Nevada City, California, also was a featured speaker at the Honda STEAM Connections tour in conjunction with Purdue University – two weeks before winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May. He noted that his interest in math and physics in high school continues to play a role in his understanding how the race car reacts on different racetracks and “some of the engineering.”
“I probably have the most fun job. The thing I love the most about motorsports, aside from the competition, is the challenge of it,” Rossi said. “Not just the challenge of being able to drive fast but the challenge of trying to come up with a solution to something that is constantly changing. There is a huge amount of engineering and thought process that goes into the race car to find that solution at the different racetracks. Racing is never done. There is a checkered flag, but the work is never done for the driver and team.
“It’s young, intelligent people like you who will give motorsports a very bright future.”
Herta, a two-time Indianapolis 500-winning team owner and former champion race driver, looked across the sea of faces in the audience and smiled. His 16-year-old son Colton is currently racing in Europe. Herta presented an example of how math was a pivotal factor in the Indy 500 victory.
“At the end of the race, we stretched our last tank of fuel five laps longer than anybody else and made it to the finish. And to be able to do that there is a lot of science, math and computations going on throughout the race. It’s just a small example of some of the applications that you’re learning about in high school and thinking why do I need to know this. We rely on our engineers to make the cars faster, which is how we win races, and all their skills are so important.
“To work for a living, it’s a pretty cool thing we do. We work hard, but I never consider it work. It’s something that we’re really passionate about, and that probably would be my message – find something you’re passionate about, find something you love. If you do that, you get to live a life where you wake up and be excited about what you’re going to be able to do that day.”
The program at San Jose State University was the last of three on the Honda STEAM Connections Tour tied to nearby Verizon IndyCar Series race events. In addition to the event in conjunction with Purdue University in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ohio State University hosted a program in July that featured a special appearance by football coach Urban Meyer.
In all the programs, the universities’ Formula SAE programs contributed to students learning about opportunities through STEAM within motorsports and the automotive industry. STEAM Sports Group developed and managed Honda’s STEAM Connections Tour.