Passion & Creativity: The Math of Racing Electric Cars

RaceClass3

One thing I hope my students learn in school is how a person can unlock their creative potential and pursue their passions into adulthood. To this end, our Math Theory & Problem Solving (MTPS) class took a field trip to do some data collection. I would like to give special thanks to Daryl Payne for allowing our MTPS class to enjoy data collection (racing cars). Daryl's creativity and passion for racing inspired the students to re-imagine what is possible in the world outside school. The video below shows the electric car race track where students raced.

We spent our lunch period having a pizza party prior to racing cars as a reward for the work students have been doing in class. My original motivation in this trip was collecting data and trying to determine how a person could use statistics to potentially detect cheating through exceptional lap times. However, there are also many other mathematical and statistical ideas we can explore with what we learned on this trip.

Here are some things that students wondered about and could lead to mathematical investigations:

  • How much longer is the outside lane than the inside lane?
  • How does the electronic timing system work?
  • How much voltage/current is being supplied to each car?
  • What would a person have to know about electronics and circuitry in order to build such a track?
  • What is the difference between cars with magnets and cars without? (Cars with magnets can maintain higher speeds around the turns, for example)
  • What amount of voltage causes a car to fly off the track?
  • How should we determine the best racer? The fastest lap time? The best median lap time?
  • Is there a difference between the performance of the blue guest car and the silver guest car? If so, how could we detect this difference numerically?
  • How does the "KILL POWER" switch work?

KillPower

Below, Mr. Payne gives the students some guidelines to follow while they practice racing on the race track.

This short video shows the beginning of a head-to-head race between students.

 

I am interested to see the types of mathematical investigations that spring up from our field trip. We will take our race data and use it to determine the best racers.

 

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