The scent of Texas barbecue wafts over one of America’s most storied historical cities. The Alamo, a fabled American landmark and a shrine to Texas freedom, may be small but looms large in downtown San Antonio. Just as the Alamo is a symbol of the courage of ordinary men, so too is the Ten80 Student Racing team that calls San Antonio home.
Deep in the heart of Texas, Michael D. Baker, professional engineer and member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), is breaking down barriers to STEM education. His dedication to mentoring and supporting positive youth development is apparent just by looking at the ear-to-ear grins on the faces of his students. Mr. Baker leads Lone Star Motorsports, the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge team of the San Antonio NSBE Jr. chapter. Joining him is a team of professional engineers who serve as coaches and help inspire these future leaders to value teamwork, ingenuity and courage.
Fifteen students in grades 4-10 meet once a week to learn how to assess ideas, analyze data and innovate solutions for optimum racing performance. A typical day starts with setting up equipment. Enthusiasm soars as a lot of them just want to race. “But it’s more than just racing,” shared Baker. “It’s about learning and understanding mechanical engineering and what it means to be a race team – which includes a skilled pit crew, spirited driving and selling themselves to raise funds and community support.”
Keeping these energetic kids on task can sometimes be challenging. So, this team of professional engineers help their students discuss objectives and set clear goals. They go through the Ten80 curriculum and work on knowing the car inside and out, mechanically engineering the ultimate car, and discovering important racing and driving techniques. The coaches teach verbally and visually using hands-on lessons to drive learning and maximize retention. As students grow and mature, those with previous experience mentor new members of the Lone Star Motorsports team.
Clearly understanding that not everyone can race, this team of dynamic youth are learning about leadership and how to be selfless and work together to achieve team goals. “Some kids have never taken leadership positions,” said Baker. “But once they become a part of Ten80, they flourish. They become more mature and responsible and this transfers over to their personal and academic lives.”
Ten80’s Student Racing Challenge shifts the thrill of motorsports into high gear and the rodeo may not be the official sport of Texas for long. Mr. Baker expressed, “When kids that have never had this type of experience come into the program, the growth and development is out of this world. You see them applying critical thinking and creativity as they go from not being able to handle the car to successfully racing and competing.” Seeing his students become strong leaders and advance academically is the only reward he needs.
As with most club activities, funding is always a constrain as they operate on a shoestring budget. But this team of innovative youth are ready for the challenge. They are learning how to be active in their community and how to ask for support. They are building partnerships with local universities, recruiting new members, and securing sponsorships.
Check this video by Lone Star Motorsports as they “race into the future.”
The fast-paced, dynamic world of Ten80’s Student Racing Challenge is making dreams come true. Lone Star Motorsports is no stranger to racing tournaments and championship wins. Taking 2nd place overall at the 2017 National STEM League Finals and 1st place for community leadership this team is rising through the ranks. And, we can’t wait to see what the future holds!