When the rubber met the road for the Baltimore Grand Prix, also known as "A Celebration of Acceleration," there was, indeed, a lot to celebrate: Favorite drivers and racing teams, Baltimore's beautiful Inner Harbor, and the array of action that creates an event like none other in the world.
But what about what's ultimately behind it all? What about the science, technology, engineering and math (yes, math) that built the cars, engines and racing strategies? What about the critical-thinking, problem-solving and collaboration that turned an impossible idea into turbocharged reality?
Those elements — science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) — are what have long catalyzed inspiration into solutions, from the first incandescent light bulb to today's light-emitting diodes; from the Duryea brothers' 1893 one-cylinder horseless carriage to the mega-horsepower V6 machines racing last weekend.
Our nation was built by innovation. And while the United States remains a leader in new patents, we face a paradox of a crisis. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM jobs are expected to grow 17 percent by 2018. Yet, it is also estimated that 1.2 million jobs will go unfilled by 2018 —because there simply won't be enough students graduating high school and college who have both the skills and the interest to fill them.
Getting students excited about STEM subjects needs to start in elementary school and continue through high school. That's why, rooted in our mission to prepare students for the global economy, Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is piloting our programs in elementary schools. As a national nonprofit, PLTW already is the leading provider of rigorous, hands-on STEM curriculum for middle and high schools throughout the nation.
That's also why we partnered with IndyCar for the Future of Fast, an at-track program for eighth-grade students, featuring learning pods related to different aspects of IndyCar racing. We are thrilled to debut our Future of Fast curriculum at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Our deepest appreciation goes to our partners at IndyCar and Jostens, who recognized auto racing as a perfect way to ignite students' interest in STEM subjects. Students who are excited and engaged and who experience hands-on learning and real-life problem solving can foster talent and ongoing interest in STEM disciplines. Moreover, they are better prepared for the global economy, to narrow the U.S. skills gap, and to be the next generation that will dream, design, and deliver whatever next visionary idea is faster than fast.
Vince Bertram, Indianapolis, In.
The writer is president and CEO of Project Lead The Way.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun