NASCAR, the Chicago Street Race, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) hosted nearly 500 Chicago-area students on Tuesday for the first-ever STEAM Fest at the Field Museum. Following a two-month, in-school design competition, finalists from each grade level were invited to the Field Museum to participate in a championship round with help from NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Suárez and a team of STEM professionals from the NASCAR industry.

Student finalists were challenged with building and testing safety barriers like those NASCAR will install along its 2.2-mile downtown Chicago course this summer. The winning groups from each grade level were recognized during an awards ceremony and received complimentary tickets to the NASCAR Chicago Street Race Weekend on July 1-2.

“NASCAR races are a living, breathing physics lab, and today is all about being able to make that connection for students in our very own community,” said Julie Giese, Chicago Street Race President. “As a part of our long-term commitment to Chicago, STEAM Fest is just the beginning of a continuing academic partnership between NASCAR and Chicago Public Schools, as we look to grow the next generation of motorsports engineers right here in this city.”

CPS and NASCAR are also working together to develop new STEM curriculum for eighth-grade students exploring fundamental science and engineering concepts within the sport. The NASCAR-themed curriculum, designed to address Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Performance Expectations, will be finalized and introduced in middle schools during the 2023-2024 school year.

“Exposing our students to opportunities for hands-on learning in STEM and STEAM allows them to make the connection between the classroom and the world outside of their school,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “Our partnership with NASCAR allows our students to showcase their incredible design and engineering skills while connecting with professionals who will help expand their vision of career opportunities in STEM. We want every child in every neighborhood to know that with focus and hard work, they can make their dreams a reality.”

Beginning in March, 22,000 CPS students from more than 40 STEM and STEAM schools began to compete in an in-classroom design challenge focused on driver helmets and culminating with the first-ever STEAM Fest. The initial partnership was announced by CPS and Chicago Street Race officials at the Field Museum on February 21 with the help of 2023 DAYTONA 500 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., fresh off the driver‘s victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Suárez, who last season became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, was joined on Tuesday by engineers and staff from his Trackhouse Racing team as the team engaged and encouraged CPS students during the competition.

“As someone who grew up in Mexico, it‘s very important to me to introduce motorsports to young individuals from diverse backgrounds who may not have grown up around racing,” said Suárez. “But these students have clearly demonstrated an appreciation and understanding of all the complexities that go into the sport, and I am confident that the future of race engineering is in great hands with these brilliant young minds.”


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