Sunday, April 19, 2009

The meaning behind Formula SAE

Normally, I try to blog from a central point of view of the team. However, I felt that this update would best be spoken from my personal experiences.

A couple of weeks ago, a few team members took Car 51 out to it's latest educational outreach event: a celebration signifying the end of Race for Reading month at Okemos, Michigan’s Edgewood Public Montessori school. During my tenure with the team, I've been privileged to attend several outreach events and to speak with many students about the importance of pursuing collegiate education and what role Formula SAE has had in mine. Bringing a race car along to visually emphasize the 'cool' activities available hasn’t ever hurt such a presentation.

Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, I couldn't personally present at this event. But I was able to help pick the car up, so I stopped by to do so.

Walking into the school library, I saw a very moving and quite adorable sight. Team members Ankit Mathur, Adrienne Burger and Lauren Heitzer were still in the midst of answering questions after their last presentation. This one happened to be to some first graders, and by the looks of them, not more than 6 or 7 years old. There were about 10 or 12 all gathered around Car 51, some with their hands raised, asking questions about the car and who built what on it. They asked about all sorts of things; the colors, what this piece did on the engine, why the tires didn't have tread, and what parts Adrienne, Lauren and Ankit personally made.

Since I am usually on the other side of the presentation, it struck me that I really didn't know what it felt like to just sit back and watch. There is only one word for it: inspirational. Team members have been presenting at schools and hosting work shop tours for quite some time, but I guess that being in front of the crowd much of those times prevented me from fully realizing (or forgetting over the course of time) what a direct impact these events really have on their audiences.

The importance of Formula SAE falls inline with the mission of it's sanctioning body: to educate today's and tomorrow's society about mobility. I think that when you participate in FSAE (or any one of SAE's collegiate design series competitions for that matter), you realize quickly the educational benefits to yourself, your teammates and your competitors. But it's easy to forget or simply overlook the importance that your team and your work play in your community.

This observation made me re-realize this. Those little kids, the future (hopefully) Spartans of our university...our team…our world were so enthralled in this piece of machinery that was, for all practical team-purposes, just a retired race car. But to them, the word 'retired' didn't mean a thing. They possessed an innocence that only allowed them to think about the possibilities that still could exist. They thought about things only in a current and future state of being, and in that sense, only what could be; not ever what would limit or prevent. They are the ultimate optimists.

This was an amazing experience, truly a moment that defined something great.

As I was only an observer here, the credit for this occurrence goes to those who captured the audience's interest, primarily Adrienne, Ankit and Lauren. Additional accolades should be paid to Car 51’s team. These people: team members, sponsors and the teacher's who invited us to Edgewood Montessori, are the facilitators of the young audience's questions that fascinated me that afternoon. I’d like to say thank you to all of you.

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great testament to this organization. Having been on the receiving side of a presentation that was given by Adam and a dozen other members of the Michigan State Formula Racing Team; I can relate to the description of inspirational. I was the lead sponsor a scout group at a Formula SAE event and the MS team was in the middle of a very challenging part failure during competition. After the competition was completed, I will never forget how the MS "team" inspired our kids about teamwork in an engineering environment and the thrill on the kids’ faces while sitting in the MS Formula car. I observed other team attributes that day; like tradition, selflessness, enthusiasm, professionalism, resourcefulness and talent. It is often the character of the organization that is the real education and inspiration to our next generation of automotive engineer. It is the outstanding role models such as your organization that is the future of this industry and I believe that future will be in good hands. Hats off to the Michigan State Formula Racing Team!
Rick Sovich
SAE International–Performance Review Institute