DEARBORN/DETROIT - Have you ever sat in a high school math class wondering how you’d ever use those complex theories and equations in later life?
Nearly 40 high school students from the Henry Ford Academies in Detroit and Dearborn – many of them aspiring engineers – enjoyed an opportunity to learn firsthand the important role that math plays in the development of a vehicle when they attended Ford Pi Day Wednesday (3.14 day) at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in Detroit.
A new 2013 Ford Escape was on display at the event and Ford Engineer Gil Portalatin shared with students the many different ways math was used in the redesign of the new vehicle.
“Thousands of mathematical algorithms and equations were used to make the new Escape a safer, smarter and more fuel-efficient vehicle,” he said. “For example, we used math to make the vehicle more aerodynamic, to reduce its rolling resistance and to develop blind-spot indicator and lane-keeping technologies.”
After Portalatin’s presentation, students were challenged to solve three math problems based on the Escape. They had to find the area of the blue Ford oval on the hood of the vehicle, figure out the diameter of the steering wheel and calculate the circumference of the tire. Those who answered the questions correctly received a Ford Pi Day t-shirt and a piece of pie.
Jonathan Davenport, a student from the Henry Ford Academy Dearborn, says the problems weren’t too difficult . . . if you paid attention in math class.
“If you didn’t know your equations, you would be facing a brick wall,” he said. “But if you knew what you were doing, it was pretty simple.”
Many of the students were surprised to see how many features of the car were developed using math.
“I learned that you need math for everything – even stuff you don’t think math is involved in – like for cruise control to estimate the time and speed of the car’s motor and stuff,” said Raymond Battle, also a student from the Henry Ford Academy Dearborn. “That’s pretty cool.”
Portalatin says he hopes students will embrace the study of math by realizing how prevalent its use is in everyday life.
“The hope is to show them that math is involved in every part of your life and that you’re doing math whether you realize it or not. If you love sports, it’s part of calculating batting averages and shooting basketballs at a certain arc. If your passion is engineering, there is math involved in design and aerodynamics,” he said. “That’s the ‘aha’ moment we’re hoping to create with Pi Day so that the next time these kids are in math class they’re not saying, ‘Oh, I’m never going to use this again.’”