AYS Racers

The arrival of the month of May means many things. The beginning of summer, the end of the school year, and if you’re a racing fan, the Indianapolis 500. In celebration of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,The 500 Festival Foundation is generously supporting AYS with a grant that has been implemented to create AYS Racers Week. According to their website, The 500 Festival is a “nonprofit organization providing life-enriching events that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500®.” You can find more information about the 500 Festival here and the 500 Gives Back grant program here. In the past week, AYS programs created engineering challenges with a focus on the Indianapolis 500.

From Monday to Thursday, children used popsicle sticks, Lifesaver mints, straws, and all manner of other supplies to build balloon-powered cars. Through this experience, the children were able to play many different roles. In designing the cars they were able to become engineers, solving mechanical problems and creating the coolest-looking car. In addition, they became the pit crew, making adjustments and helping the car to be the fastest on the track. Finally, they were able to become racers themselves, as the week culminated in a “Mini 500” to determine a winning design and crown the fastest car. For Rousseau McClellan School 91 site leader Jasamine Turentine, the greatest success has been the collaboration. “They were broken into partners or groups. Sometimes with the older kids it’s hard to find stuff that they like to do but they all were excited to do it.”

Throughout the week, the children also learned about the history of the race and found answers to some important questions like “Why do the winners drink milk at the end?” or “Who decided that the race should span 500 miles?” If you’re curious to know the answer, ask your child what they learned! 8 year-old Lucy worked through the challenge of duct-taping the balloon so all the air stayed in and compared the “balloon power” to a real life engine. “The duct tape was the biggest challenge. I just added more…If you blow the balloon really big, the balloon is the engine so it’ll push the car.”

These activities provide children with exposure to the 5 pillars of the STEAM model: science, technology, engineering, art and math. Each participant found their personal niche in creating the car, designing its appearance and watching it race. Students who may be vaguely familiar with the Indy 500 gained a great deal of knowledge and those who were big fans were able to celebrate this passion among their friends in a classroom setting. This collaboration represents AYS’s mission for a safe, caring and fun environment outside of the classroom. In addition, the spirit of the Indy 500 was definitely present at participating sites.

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