The University of New Mexico’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) team members just completed an annual program serving as teachers for a three-week engineering class, part of a national program to introduce and interest youth in engineering.

The class, which was held at Monte Vista Elementary School in Albuquerque, had FSAE team members leading nearly 50 fifth-graders in the design of a miniature race car — about six inches long and made of balloons, sticks, nozzles, and other assorted parts.

The car had to be built to certain specifications, as dictated by the fictitious toy maker. This gave fifth-grade students an early glimpse into what it is like to work as a real engineer, constructing projects to a client’s specification.

The program is part of the "A World in Motion" program, funded by the SAE Foundation. The goal of the national program is to bring the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math to life in K-12 classrooms. The program uses the laws of physics, motion, flight, and electronics as the basis for age-appropriate, hands-on activities that reinforce what students are learning about math and science.

For this project, the students are broken up into several design teams. UNM students help each team build and test the tiny cars and collect and analyze data to understand the effect of nozzle size on the performance of the toys.

Typically, a teacher conducts this program with an engineer’s help. But in this case, that process is reversed, with the students conducting the class with the teacher helping out as needed.

The UNM students worked with Monte Vista teachers Anne Strader and Lisa Vargas.

“The students learn some of the principles of engineering, the importance of teamwork, troubleshooting and problem-solving, and how to go through the process to complete a task,” Strader said. “It really opens their eyes to the world of engineering.”

FSAE 2015 team member and mechanical engineering student Stephanie Dimpfel said she thought the project is a great opportunity to get the word out to youth about engineering.

“Engineering is about design and how to make things useful,” Dimpfel said. “This gives kids the chance to see that, because a lot of kids don’t ever see engineering in action.”

FSAE students have worked on the "A World in Motion" project at Monte Vista for about a decade.

The LOBOMotorSports Formula SAE program was started in 1998 by John Russell, Halliburton Professor of Mechanical Engineering. It has evolved into a three-semester program in which students take three courses worth 10 credit hours: Racecar Design and Dynamics, Racecar Build Lab, and Racecar Test Lab in which they design, build and race a Formula SAE car. The culmination of the program is an opportunity to compete against the best schools in the world.

In 2014, the program was ranked fifth-best in the United States and 17th-best in the world, according to rankings issued by the Formula Student Combustion World Rankings, compiled by Formula Student Germany, which ranked 507 teams from around the globe.

In an international Formula SAE competition in June 2014 in Lincoln, Neb., the team placed 11th overall out of 80 international entries. This year’s contest is in Lincoln, Neb., June 17-20.

To donate to the program, visit: Lobo Motorsports Formula SAE Program.