Motor Sports Program a great way for students to enjoy EST
Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 11:05
The Engineering Science and Technologies department at Parkland College is dedicated to everything involving the sciences. It is especially focused on helping students who share an interest in working with cars to become prepared for the real world.
A popular degree choice in this department is Automotive Technology. This program has provided training for local technicians for more than 40 years.
The program was recently modified to allow students to explore the high performance side of the industry. Interested students can now learn all the needed skills for career’s as technicians in the automotive industry and learn the skills needed to modify vehicles or prepare them for a variety of racing applications.
Director of Automotive Technology Jon Ross oversees the activities and curriculum for the motor sports program.
“Students are learning the skills needed for entry level employment in either a general automotive repair facility and use the motor sport skills as a hobby,” Ross said. “Or use the motor sport skills and automotive skills to secure employment in motor sport related business.”
Parkland Motor Sports currently has four cars they use for racing on weekends. They consist of autocross and drag cars.
The one most frequently use is a 1980 Chevrolet Malibu they call “The Learning Curve,” which uses a 500 horsepower 6.0 L GM engine.
It hits the ground running as it often reaches nearly 100 mph in a 1/8 mile drag race. The fastest time recorded with The Learning Curve is 7.03 seconds, according to its driver Travis Buth, a student at Parkland.
Buth and other students involved with motor sports spend many hours of their time fixing and preparing these racing machines for the track. He relishes the opportunity given to him to work with fellow students on the car and then be able to be the one to race it after.
“It helps build teamwork for sure,” Buth said. “It’s really rewarding. I’ve been drag racing since I was 8, and anytime you can put something together and then go actually get to drive it instead of seeing someone else drive it, it’s just really rewarding.”
Some of the other cars that students work on include a 1990 Honda Civic used for student driven autocross events, two more autocross racers that are being built currently and a Bob Pierce UMP Dirt Pro-late model dirt track car.
The latter is not student driven but can be seen at the speedways in Farmer City and Lincoln.
Ross wants all students to share Buth’s rewarding feelings when joining the program.
“We like to talk about ownership. If a student feels they are a part of the process they are much more likely to talk about what they are doing and take pride in that work,” he said.
Once the students have prepared the cars, they are taken down to Coles County Drag Way just outside of Charleston, Ill. It is there that Parkland most often goes to race.
They compete with drag cars from Southern Illinois University, Lakeland and Lincoln Land Community College.
Not just any student can step up and drive the drag car. They must meet certain requirements such as a 3.0 GPA and must have passed multiple stages of car-related tests.
“I had to show them I could do a burnout, and then slowly work my way up (through those tests),” Buth said.
Aside from just racing, Parkland hosts a free car show annually on the first Saturday of May. This year’s car show takes place May 5 with registration beginning at 10:30 a.m. with show and judging starting at noon.
Registration costs are $10 before the day of, and $15 the day of the show. Anyone who is interested and has a car is encouraged to partake in the event. You may contact Jon Ross at 217-351-2209 for more information.
“The car show has allowed Parkland to involve the community in a great on-campus activity,” Ross said. “While we like to show what we have done, the show is really a great place for the community to gather and see the wonderful cars and trucks from our local community.”
Proceeds from the car show help support the motor sports program activities and supplies.
An enticing aspect for students is the new Applied Technology Center set to officially become open in the fall. The 64,000 square foot building will allow for much more space to work with cars than what is currently available in their small garage.
“We have several classrooms and one large lab space,” Ross said about the new building.
“The industry changes so quickly, we wanted to be sure the space we created could stay as flexible as possible for many years,” he said. “By using the large lab concept we feel we can adapt to the future changes as they come.”
One great feature that the Automotive Technology portion of EST offers for students is a direct transfer agreement with SIU. After two years at Parkland, a student can go to SIU as an Automotive Tech major and further develop their skills working with cars.
Southern Illinois University is one of just five schools in the entire country that offers a degree in Automotive Technology.