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SME Speaks: Students and Careers in Motorsports


Throughout the Introduction to Motorsports class recently conducted as a joint venture by two of America's leading motorsports universities, the most commonly asked question was, "Why Pete Hyltonwasn't there a class about racing like this when I was in college?" That query was echoed time and again by guest speakers and industry representatives from all over motorsports, as Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) conducted this two-week class that immersed students in an indepth exposure to careers in the motorsports industry.

As IUPUI's director of motorsports, I worked with Travis Teague, PhD, who supervises the Motorsports Management program at WSSU, to develop this three-credit-hour college class. As part of this class, students visited four of the premier auto racing facilities in the US, as well as a number of top racing shops. IUPUI now offers a bachelor's degree in motorsports engineering and a certificate in motorsports technology, while WSSU offers a bachelor's degree in motorsports management. The partnership between the two schools provides an opportunity to explore the differing specialties of the two institutions in one course, which is open to students from both universities.

The two weeks of intensive motorsports activity began when a contingent from Indianapolis towed the IUPUI racecar to Virginia International Raceway, one of the most highly regarded road-racing circuits in the country. The team competed in a two-day Sports Car Club of America event on the challenging 3.25 mile (5.2-km) circuit. Racing a car that was designed and built by IUPUI motorsports students, with a crew made up of students from the class, and with an IUPUI mechanical engineering technology student as a driver, the team left VIR with a second and a third-place finish in two races over the May 10–11 weekend.

IUPUI students get a close look at a NASCAR-modified racecar, while visiting the track at Bowman-Gray Stadium, in Winston-Salem, NC.   

Proceeding to Winston-Salem, NC, the IUPUI contingent joined up with WSSU students and faculty to begin a week-long session on motorsports management, featuring lectures by Teague and Jim Hand, PhD, another member of the WSSU motorsports faculty, and with guest speakers involved in all aspects of the active stock car racing scene in North Carolina. The class also toured race shops for Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, two of the top teams on the NASCAR circuit. Students had the opportunity to see parts fabrication, engine build operations, chassis assembly, and car finishing, and were able to talk with both technical and marketing personnel from the teams. Additionally, the class visited several museums in the Charlotte, NC, area dedicated to the history of stock car racing. The class also toured Bowman-Gray Stadium, one of the oldest continuously operating stock car tracks in existence, and Lowes Motor Speedway, one of the premier super speedways in the country. Students attended the NASCAR All Star Race at the facility courtesy of Lowes.

After the week in North Carolina, students and faculty from both universities traveled to Indianapolis, where they began the week at the Indiana Motorsports Association (IMA) INgear (Indiana Growing Education and Racing) seminar at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Industry experts spoke on the marketing of motorsports, performance in the industry, and the relationship between education and motorsports businesses. Students also visited the Hall of Fame Museum at IMS.

The next day featured a stopover at Don Schumacher Racing's drag racing shop, where students met with one of the team's drivers, a chief mechanic, and the operation's general manager. This was followed by a visit to Tony Stewart Racing, where students had the opportunity to find out how a major team prepares cars for Midwest Midget, Sprint, and Silver Crown Racing. The next day consisted of lectures on the development of technology in motorsports by IUPUI faculty, and a guest visit by former Formula One and Indy Car driver, Derek Daly.

The final two days of the class were spent as guests of the Indy Racing League (IRL) and O'Reilly Raceway Park (ORP). Although rain prevented the class from seeing much activity when the IRL invited them to spend the day at IMS, they did get a garage tour and a chance to meet with one of the race engineers for Panther Racing, and with driver Sarah Fisher, who is sponsored, in part, by IUPUI.

After giving presentations on the group projects that students had worked on across the two-week class, and taking their final exam, the class moved to ORP where they heard a discussion of how the staff operates one of the busiest race facilities in the country, and got to see both a drag race on the famous quarter-mile strip, and United States Auto Club (USAC) midgets racing on ORP's 5/8 mile oval.

In the end, all participants agreed that this had been a very good opportunity to see the workings of the motorsports industry from the inside. It also showed how the IUPUI and WSSU motorsports education programs are taking a progressive approach to their new programs.

About the author

Pete Hylton is the director of motorsports and a professor of mechanical engineering technology for IUPUI. Prior to joining IUPUI, Hylton worked in the aerospace industry for more than 25 years. During that time, he was also a racecar builder, driver, and official. Hylton is the author of a number of magazine articles on the history of sports car racing in the US, as well as two books, the most recent being Ghost Tracks. He has been a SME member since 2006, and is involved in SME's Motorsports Initiative.

To learn more about IUPUI's motorsports curriculum, contact Pete Hylton at 317.274.7192 or


Innovations That Could Change the Way You Manufacture


Self-Assembling Nanotechnology

On May 3, 2007, IBM announced the first-ever application of a breakthrough self-assembling nanotechnology to conventional chip manufacturing, borrowing a process from nature to build the next-generation computer chips.   

The natural pattern-creating process that forms seashells, snowflakes, and enamel on teeth has been harnessed by IBM to form trillions of holes to create insulating vacuums around the miles of nanoscale wires packed next to each other inside each computer chip.

In chips running in IBM labs using the technique, the researchers have proven that the electrical signals on the chips can flow 35% faster, or the chips can consume 15% less energy, when compared to the most advanced chips using conventional techniques.

The IBM patented self-assembly process moves a nanotechnology manufacturing method that had shown promise in laboratories into a commercial manufacturing environment for the first time, providing the equivalent of two generations of Moore's Law wiring performance improvements in a single step, using conventional manufacturing techniques.

This new form of insulation, commonly referred to as "airgaps" by scientists, is a misnomer, as the gaps are actually a vacuum. The technique deployed by IBM causes a vacuum to form between the copper wires on a computer chip, allowing electrical signals to flow faster, while consuming less electrical power. The self-assembly process enables the nanoscale patterning required to form the gaps; this patterning is considerably smaller than current lithographic techniques can achieve.

A vacuum is believed to be the ultimate insulator for wiring capacitance, which occurs when two conductors, in this case adjacent wires on a chip, sap or siphon electrical energy from one another, generating undesirable heat and slowing the speed at which data can move through a chip.

Until now, chip designers often were forced to fight capacitance issues by pushing ever more power through chips creating, in the process, a range of other problems. They have also used insulators with better insulating capability, but these insulators have become tenuously fragile as chip features get smaller and smaller, and their insulating properties do not compare to those of a vacuum.

The self-assembly process already has been integrated with IBM's state-of-the-art manufacturing line in East Fishkill, NY, and is expected to be fully incorporated in IBM's manufacturing lines and used in chips in 2009. The chips will be used in IBM's server product lines, and thereafter for chips IBM builds for other companies.

The Secret of Self-Assembly

The secret of IBM's breakthrough lies in how the IBM scientists' moved the self-assembly process from the laboratory to a production manufacturing environment in a way that can potentially yield millions of chips with consistent, high-performance results.

Today, chips are manufactured with copper wiring surrounded by an insulator, which involves using a mask to create circuit patterns by beaming light through the mask and later chemically removing the parts that are not needed.

The new technique to make airgaps by self-assembly skips the masking and lightetching process. Instead IBM scientists discovered the right mix of carbon-silicate glass compounds, which they pour onto a silicon wafer with the wired chip patterns, then bake.

This patented process provides the right environment for the compounds to assemble in a directed manner, creating trillions of uniform, nanoscale holes across an entire 300-mm wafer. These holes are just 20 nm in diam, up to five times smaller than would be possible using today's most advanced lithography technique.

Once the holes are formed, the carbon silicate glass is removed, creating a vacuum between the wires—known as the airgap—allowing the electrical signals to either flow 35% faster, or to consume 15% less energy.

Self-assembly is a concept scientists have been studying at IBM and in labs around the world as a potential technique to create materials useful for building computer chips. The concept occurs in nature every day, it is how enamel is formed on our teeth; it's the process that creates seashells and is what transforms water into complex snowflakes. The major difference is that, while the processes that occur in nature are all unique, IBM has been able to direct the self-assembly process to form trillions of holes that are all similar.


This article was first published in the September 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.


Published Date : 9/1/2008

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