It may look like a ride you might find on Mario Cart, but engineering students at Central Magnet School hope to use a recent car donation to apply lessons they learn in the classroom.
A Formula SAE quarter-scale car -- dressed with Central's colors and logo -- was recently donated and delivered to the school by a non-profit with connections to Tennessee Tech and at the urging of a Central grad.
The non-profit -- Hands-On By Design -- was created by a member of the motorsports team at Tennessee Tech, Aaron Crowley.
"This car is going to help the educators, like Mr. Guthrie, teach the students relevant concepts that they're learning in the classroom by actually coming out and seeing some of the different aspects of the car and they actually can make the relation between theory and hands-on," said Crowley, referring to Central engineering teacher Marc Guthrie.
Aaron Crowley was the executive director of the motorsports team at Tennessee Tech while he was working on his doctorate. The team wanted to start doing outreach programs to the community to educate them about the work they were doing. Miranda McConnell, a 2013 graduate of Central, was also a member of the team and the non-profit, which is how they first got started visiting Central.
"She was like 'hey my school would be perfect for this, let's go to them.' She already had contacts here and knew the STEM teacher, Mr. Guthrie, and so that's how we started," Crowley explained. "We started coming here first and got the students involved, and then we started seeing there was actually a disconnect between what industry was wanting and what students are learning. So that's what we're hoping, that this car will actually bridge that gap."
With her past experience at Central, McConnell said she knew the school would be a good fit for the group's classroom presentations and eventually the car donation. The Central car is the first "product" the non-profit has created.
"I went through the project Lead the Way with (former Central teacher Melinda) Hamby when I was here," McConnell said. "She really got me interested in engineering and so I knew I wanted to do it for a long time.
"The classes here were amazing and I really liked the push the students here around me had. I joined the team (at Tennessee Tech) and started doing school visits, and I wanted to come back here. Every year when we come back to Central, they always have the most interested kids and ask the most questions and are always the most intrigued. Me and Aaron are good friends, and so when we started working on this non-profit we were like 'we've got to do Central because they are the most interested.'"
Guthrie and fellow engineering teacher Scarlett Murphy already have lesson plans in the works for how they will use the car in the classroom.
"We're changing our STEM curriculum for next year and we're going to use this car as a focus to teach automotive concepts, the geometry of steering, of how engines work," Guthrie said. "We know there is a need in our area."
Murphy added: "I'll be doing a section on materials so we'll probably go through the materials they used and some possible materials they could have used that might have been cheaper. I'll also be doing a economics portion of my curriculum so we'll be talking about costs of materials and why that's important."
While the car is drivable with an estimated top speed of 35 miles per hour, it's really meant to be a classroom tool and working model that allows students to see how theoretical changes affect the car's performance.
"Our standard curriculum that we offer with the car is meant to supplement what the teachers are already doing," he explained, adding. "It's kind of an attention getter."
To learn more about Hands-On By Design, visit hands-onbydesign.com.