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Science Experiments on Wheels

Calling all kids and NASCAR fans! On April 26th and 27th we have another fantastic opportunity to experience a science experiment on wheels at Richmond International Raceway. Virginia529 College Savings Plan is again sponsoring the Kids Zone powered by the Science Museum of Virginia at both the April and September races. Watch this Science Matters video of the Kids Zone last year and you’ll learn more about the fast paced Science of Racing.

This year, in the new Virginia529 Kids Zone, Science Museum staff will engage children ages 12 and younger in hands-on exhibits and demonstrations that explore the science of racing. This special area will be located near the Commonwealth Mall on Friday and Saturday of both the April and September Race Weekends. Click here for more information on the Kids Zone and how to purchase tickets for the Race.

What all will you learn about the science of racing while having tons of fun?  

  • Use an air cannon to experience how the force of air can move objects and explore how air affects the speed and drag on a race car.
  • See and feel how a car’s wheels store energy and try to figure out which wheel design accelerates faster.
  • Try your hand at making paper airplanes and explore how streamlined designs for planes and cars have less drag.
  • See how the air flowing over the curved top of a ball creates lift and relate that to air flowing over a race car without a spoiler.

Here are some Fun facts from the Science Museum of Virginia:

  • Did you know that a NASCAR driver will maintain a heart rate of 120-150 beats per minute for more than 3 hours?
  • That a driver can lose from 5-10 lbs. from perspiration during a race.
  • That the temperature inside a NASCAR race car can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • And on straightaways at 200 mph, NASCAR drivers travel 293 feet in one second. That’s the equivalent of traveling almost the length of a football field during the time it takes you to sneeze!

Want to learn more about the Science of Racing?

A lot of technologies being used in the racing industry are actually spinoffs of NASA research. The drivers’ fire suits are very similar to NASA space suits for example. Check out NASA's interactive program to explore other spinoffs.  Teachers can discover more on the NASA and NASCAR connection through NASA’s program for educators called Rockets 2 Racecars”  and register for April's virtual teacher workshops (Click here for PDF).

Another excellent resource is the educational video series, The Science of Speed produced by NASCAR and the National Science Foundation.

The Science of Speed, written and hosted by Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, explains the scientific principles that are so essential to the NASCAR experience. You can’t win NASCAR without getting the science right. Check out this video series that uses the elements of NASCAR to illustrate how a race car really is a science experiment on wheels

Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager

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