By Edward Cardenas
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) - Hundreds of Detroit Public School students learned the basics of science and engineering Thursday that one day may power them to a career in automotive racing.
Education Day at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix brought nearly 450 students representing 16 schools in PNC's Grow Up Great initiative and 250 fifth graders from 10 schools through PNC's to learn how science, technology, engineering and mathematics could be applied to a career in racing.
The students toured the grounds and visited the paddock where Detroit Grand Prix teams were setting up for a weekend of racing May 29-31.
After seeing sports cars and a modified IndyCar race around the track, they visited the Team Penske tent where they raced cars on a track and learned about gravity, pedaled in a human-powered engine, viewed a wind tunnel to learn about aerodynamics and competed in a tug-of-war which taught them how gears function.
"(Education Day) gives these kids the opportunity to come down and see the cars and interact," said Burton International School parent Nicholle Choit, who thought the visit was a good way for the students to see learning in action. "They are learning different things in school, but it is very good to see it in motion."
The visit to Belle Isle culminated weeks of classroom learning where racing-inspired science and math based curriculums in participating schools.
The Fifth Gear program was created in 2012 for fifth-grade students to experience the Grand Prix. Additionally, PNC's Grow Up Great program was created to improve early childhood education.
"PNC's ongoing support of the Grand Prix racing education program reflects our strong corporate commitment to education in Detroit and throughout the PNC footprint," said PNC Regional President Ric DeVore.
As the students took part in the activities, they also were treated to a demonstration by Detroit Public Schools' Cass Technical High School FIRST robotics team.
Former Detroit Piston center Earl Cureton toured the event and was impressed at the opportunities Education Day provided students. This was something he wished was available when he was a student in Detroit Public Schools.
"The engineering job is going to last a lifetime. You can be an engineer for 40 years and be set for the rest of your life," said Cureton, who said a career in basketball may last for five or six. "Kids are curious when they are at the age. The more things you put in front of them, gives them more opportunities and more chances to advance themselves."
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