Sci-Tech

A new driver for math and science education -- Nascar

Technically Incorrect: Driving cars fast is driven by data. So America's foremost racing organization decides it must step forward to teach kids math and science.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


edwards.jpg
Carl Edwards, Nascar driver and engineering teacher. Nascar/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You will be watching today's Daytona 500 and marveling at the dynamic, daredevil drivers who crash into each other just to prove they're winners.

I, if I happen to accidentally tune into the wrong channel, will think only one thing: Behold America's next great math and science educators.

It has reached my eyes, you see, that Nascar has decided to reach out to our mathematically ill-educated youth, in order to lift them up onto the world's counting podium.

It's launched something called Acceleration Nation, a Web site where kids can learn how to drive recklessly and cause 12-car pile-ups. No, wait. I have that wrong. It's a place where kids can be propelled to working harder on the so-called STEM essences: science, technology, engineering and math.

Those who work within those fields believe, of course, that they are the most fascinating things on earth. However, many real people view these rational subjects with the joy of an armed robber viewing a blue flashing light.

Acceleration Nation therefore is full of quizzes and games that will stimulate the excitable minds of 8- to 12-year-olds, as well as coincidentally stimulating their enthusiasm for Nascar.

Ad Age reports that 49 percent of Nascar's passionate are aged 55 or more. This makes it somewhat imperative for the sport to attract younger blood. How interesting, though, that it's trying to target them through their minds as well as their hearts.

A new ad debuting today as part of the initiative shows driver Carl Edwards helping kids understand that only the finest math and engineering can ensure he'll make lots of money from sponsors.

This is America, children. It all comes down to money.

A recent Pew Research Center report suggests that Americans are better at math and science than they were 20 years ago.

However, in math the US is middling at best, behind countries such as Slovenia, Poland, Macao and Iceland. In science, the US has a slightly higher ranking but still hovers just above the middle. Finland, Ireland and Liechtenstein are just a few of the countries ahead of the US.

It seems, therefore, wise (and well as commercially calculating) of Nascar to see if it can contribute to making America a more science-enthusiastic place.

I wonder if schools will join in the amusement and begin to sell space on their kids' uniforms to corporate sponsors.

And then parents, instead of dull bumper stickers that read "Proud Parent of a Star Student," can adorn their Toyota Sierras with "My Son is Sponsored by Clorox."