Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kids Swap Matchbox for Race Car Children from Alaska to New Jersey Spend the Summer at Race Camp Learning Math and Tricks of the Track

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kids Swap Matchbox for Race Car Children from Alaska to New Jersey Spend the Summer at Race Camp Learning Math and Tricks of the Track

Article excerpt

In the shadow of the mighty steel and cement grandstand of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, 13 stock cars are raring to go.

Splashed with chartreuse and emblazoned with numbers, these mechanical powerhouses are held at bay only by the steady, gloved hands of their drivers, who wait to master the course before them.

But this is not exactly the Richard Petty or Jeff Gordon crowd. When these racers are homesick, it's not for their wives, but their mothers. The average height at this starting line? Something around 4 feet. This summer, a new phenomenon has roared into Atlanta. It's a first-of-its-kind concept called Race Camp. Modeled on the popular Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., - and drawing on Americans' accelerating interest in race cars - it brings in drivers from as far away as Alaska and New Jersey. But Race Camp isn't merely a video-game come-to-life for the 10-to-17-year-olds who attend. Behind all the horsepower and skidmarks, there's a lot of high-powered calculation of torque, r.p.m., and the like. Organizers say the purpose isn't necessarily to train kids to be stock-car drivers, but to teach them math, science, and technology in a hands-on way, through a sport that's already captured their interest. "We want to open up their eyes, show them something new and different," says one of Race Camp's three founders, Bart Williams. "Learning can be fun - that's what we want them to know," he says. On any given week from June to the end of August, 35 campers scurry between the renovated mechanics' garages that now serve as "cabins" and outdoor pavilions where engine parts are propped up as teaching tools. Boys and girls (there are a few girls in most groups) can race each other on computer simulations of America's famous tracks. Campers even see the other side of the sport by touring the Speedway's press boxes and sending a story about their adventures to their hometown newspapers. …

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