This year, a Blue Oak School elective course required a group of seventh and eighth graders to rebuild a 1984 BMW 318i from the ground up to compete in a nearby LeMons 24-hour endurance race. Physics, thermodynamics, friction, and how to avoid smashing your thumb with a sledgehammer were part of the learning process.
Since some of their own parents would be piloting the vehicle, the team of five girls and five boys were determined to do an especially good job. They read the event’s rulebook, devised a formal car theme, and submitted a written plan and proposal to race officials for approval.
Their next steps involved disassembling the car to strip unnecessary weight, organizing parts, learning about suspension and brakes, using a plasma cutter, and adjusting the car’s center of mass to make it handle better on the track. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, to see the inside of what you drive every day,” says eighth grader Alia Rodgers. “You don’t think about how many components there are until you actually see them!”
Parents Frank Dominguez and Rich Olivier, a renowned racing engine builder whose son Chris was in the class, assisted with the fun and forward-thinking curriculum. Mr. Olivier offered his machine shop as a student workspace.
On the day of the race, the students served as the pit crew, and were responsible for reporting and problem-solving any trackside issues. “It was the essence of progressive education,” says their teacher, Greg Garrison. “It was the ultimate real world and hands-on experience.”