Magazine article ASEE Prism

Ready, Get Set, Go!

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Ready, Get Set, Go!

Article excerpt

MICHAEL SHERIDAN has been hearing, "Gentlemen, start your engines," over the loudspeakers at the Indy 500 since he started going to the races with his dad at the age of 9. Little did he know 18 years later he'd be hearing the same phrase again-this time as a technical support engineer for Panther Racing.

Standing in the pit with cars flying by at 200 mph, Sheridan, a 27-year-old junior in mechanical engineering technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), races against the clock to collect beacons of fuel data from each 40-second lap his driver takes around the track. In a sport where seconds make or break a win, Sheridan's job is to ensure the driver doesn't refuel too early.

As an intern, Sheridan puts in 50 hours a week, collecting and organizing reams of data on everything from airbag balance to tire temperatures and weight distribution. He loves every minute of it and credits the new motorsports engineering technology certificate program at IUPUI with giving him the qualifications for the internship. "I've used just about everything I've learned in class so far," he says.

Sheridan is hoping the specialized nature of the motorsports program will put him on the inside track when he graduates. But he might not have that advantage for long if programs like the one at IUPUI continue to grow in number. Motorsports programs aimed at giving students a base in engineering, mechanics and business began gaining popularity in the mid-1990s as NASCAR garnered national attention.

Pete Hylton, assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology and head of IUPUI's one-year-old motorsports program, says these programs are past due. "In the university environment, we have not traditionally provided specific courses that helped students go into racing," he says, adding that in the United Kingdom, students can earn a bachelor's degree in motorsports engineering. …

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