Andretti Autosport recently invited me into Riverside Jr. High School in Fishers, Indiana to listen, along with a class of 25 students, to a presentation on IndyCar aerodynamics. Students in Brad Bill’s Tech Education class had the opportunity to ask Andretti crew member, Kelly Potter, how to make the miniature balsam wood cars they are building this semester go fast.
The classroom setting offered the unique experience to have the high-tech aerodynamic theories in use on IndyCars brought down to a level that 8th graders could understand. A key point among those theories was to focus on the shape of the car. As Kelly put it, think of things that go fast like a jet or even a ship, they always have a pointed front. He next equated the “drag” created by wind to the force to someone trying to swim in heavy clothing.
Kelly went further in depth to describe the down force effect created by the placement of wings on an IndyCar. He then complimented the students by explaining how cool it was to see them try to apply similar design techniques used on IndyCars because he did not have that opportunity in 8th grade.
When Kelly went on to explain how the logos on IndyCars can create increased drag and weight on the vehicle, Tech Education teacher, Brad Bill, jumped in to connect the same theory to his students’ frustration with the amount of sanding required to perfect their cars. As he told students, there is a purpose after all to the amount of sanding it takes to make a car run smoothly.
Students had the opportunity to view an IndyCar up-close as part of the lesson and show off their own designs to Kelly Potter. His pick for the best student car? The one with the coolest paint job.