Detroit Grand_Prix_Education_ProgramBuilding on the community outreach efforts tied to the return of motorsports racing to the area, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (CDBIGP) has launched a partnership with PNC Bank to host two mathematics and science programs for Detroit Public School (DPS) students centered around racing.

The new program, called Fifth Gear, combines a mathematics and science curriculum to generate excitement among DPS fifth graders for careers in science, technology, engineering and math through real-world application in motorsports. The program is funded by a grant from the PNC Bank Foundation under the stewardship of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. 

In the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix, to be held June 1-3 on Belle Isle, participating DPS classes will incorporate the  Fifth Gear curriculum in their classrooms. 

During PNC Bank Free Prix Day at the Grand Prix on Friday, June 1, the students will use the Raceway on the Belle Isle Park street circuit to apply their learning to the fast-paced world of racing. Working with actual race teams and engineers competing in the Grand Prix and representatives from Plymouth-based Ilmor Engineering, the students will experience hands-on activities that will build on what they’ve learned in their classrooms. 

“Since we announced the return of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, it has been our desire to create an aspirational program involving DPS students that includes a great learning environment,” said Bud Denker, event chairman of the Grand Prix. “Science and math are critical skills that are used every day in business and life, but also in racing. With the assistance of PNC Bank and DPS leadership, we will welcome over 600 DPS students to the Grand Prix. These are young people that may experience an event like this for the first time, building an annual program that we hope will create the spark for many to pursue science, technology and math as core programs in their futures.“

Three Detroit Public Schools’ robotics teams will also attend PNC Bank Free Prix Day. Participating school teams include Cass Technical High School, Westside Academy and Davis Aerospace Technical High School. Each team will bring robots that they have created to display on site and they will also help serve as mentors to the younger students.

PNC is also working closely with race organizers to incorporate materials from the bank’s signature philanthropic program, Grow Up Great, into PNC Free Prix Day activities. PNC Grow Up Great is a multi-year, $350 million initiative designed to improve early childhood education – particularly in underserved areas. 

“PNC Grow Up Great now reaches eight Detroit Public Schools and serves more than 200 pre-K students,” said Ric DeVore, PNC regional president for Detroit and Southeast Michigan.  “In addition to the Fifth Gear students, children involved in the local Grow Up Great programs will participate in age-appropriate, structured race-themed activities at PNC Free Prix Day.”

Helping to create the next generation of racing fans, the students will also experience the excitement of world-class auto racing in the Motor City first hand as they watch all of the on-track action that day from the grandstands. In all, over 600 DPS students are expected to visit Belle Isle to participate in the activities on PNC Bank Free Prix Day, June 1.

“Having our students involved in an event of this magnitude further demonstrates the DPS commitment, as well as that of our community partners, to educate students outside of the classroom,” said Roy Roberts, emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools. “We value opportunities where we can provide hands-on learning experiences for our students, especially those that complement our already rigorous Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics curriculum.” 

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