Toy cars get kids excited about engineering

  • 26-Apr-2012 09:14 EDT
Toy Car 5.jpg

"They work with compound gear trains, so that means science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines are part of the equation for the students," SAE Foundation's Matthew Miller said about the Motorized Toy Car challenge. The competition at SAE 2012 World Congress drew more than 30 middle school teams.

A 12-year-old and three of her classmates are dizzyingly excited as their Motorized Toy Car cruises up an incline.

The vehicle’s surface grip is improved because rubber bands cover the black grooved tires.

“But that’s just on the back wheels because that’s really where the motor force comes from,” Cameron Lahoud, a middle school student at St. John’s Catholic School in Fenton, MI, tells an SAE Magazines reporter.

The young Lahoud is talking while watching her teammates navigate the boxy-styled toy car during a practice session in Cobo Center’s Detroit Hall on opening day of SAE 2012 World Congress.

More than 30 teams from various middle schools were competing for bronze, silver, and gold medals with Motorized Toy Cars put to the test in four different categories: 15° ramp, 30° ramp, speed course, and obstacle course.

Before the big event April 24, the teams assembled their cars from standardized component kits that include gears, an electric motor, a chassis, axle, and wheels.

The Motorized Toy Car project—part of SAE International’s A World In Motion (AWIM) educational program—is teacher-administered in the classroom with industry professionals providing volunteer assistance via mentorship and other support.

“We’ve been growing the (AWIM) program in terms of the number of students we reach and the activities that we offer. As a whole, there are 10 separate curriculum challenges, one of which is the Motorized Toy Car activity,” explained Matthew Miller, Director of the SAE Foundation & Pre-College Programs.

On a yearly basis, AWIM reaches 50,000 to 60,000 students throughout the U.S. and Canada, Miller said.

Mike Stoller, Director of Communications for Honeywell Transportation Systems in Plymouth, MI, said the program is a big hit with many Honeywell employees.

“For a company that relies on engineering talent, this is a natural activity to support and help prosper,” Stoller said, adding, “Working with the kids brings us a lot of value. It’s a program that our employees have embraced and really have a passion for participating in.”

With Honeywell having a global business footprint, the company’s Intranet hosted several videos submitted by teams from Mexico, Asia, and Europe who were invited to participate in the program.

Honeywell employees then cast votes for their favorite team. And the winning team—from Elsa Triolet middle school in Thaon Les Vosges, France—flew to Detroit for the SAE World Congress Motorized Toy Car competition, which was sponsored by Honeywell.

With 150 kids all wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with red lettering and a Motorized Toy Car logo, the competition zones resembled a NASCAR crowd.

Zack Chops, a seventh-grader at St. Edith School in Livonia, MI, is big fan of the educational program that takes a hands-on approach to science, technology, engineering, and math lessons.

“We built a real car out of little plastic gears and brackets and other things—and put those things into panel boards—to make the car move. And, that’s pretty fun,” said a smiling Chops.

The motorized toy car competition was a new feature at this year’s World Congress. The sixth-annual JetToy competition and the second-annual Fuel Cell competition followed on successive days as companion AWIM activities for students.

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