IndyCar: Dalton Kellett talks exciting STEM initiative

IndyCar driver Dalton Kellett spoke to Beyond the Flag about teaming with InterNational STEM League and the iNSL iRacing Student Innovation Challenge.

Dalton Kellett, who wrapped up his rookie IndyCar season as a part-time driver for A.J. Foyt Enterprises two weekends ago in the doubleheader at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, spoke to Beyond the Flag about another racing opportunity in which he is involved and to which he has developed a deep passion through his personal background and his racing career.

Kellett has teamed with the InterNational STEM League and the iNSL iRacing Student Innovation Challenge, a partnership between Ten80 and iRacing, in order engage students in their love of math and science.

“I’ll give you some background,” Kellett stated. “I’m their brand ambassador in IndyCar. They approached me a few years ago to basically help them grow their program and represent their league. At the time it was in Indy Lights, but then in IndyCar this season.”

The 27-year-old Canadian, who holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Engineering Physics with material option from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and has several years of open-wheel racing experience, both on the track and in the simulator, is IndyCar’s ideal ambassador for InterNational STEM League students.

The goal of this STEM charitable education initiative is to promote engineering in schools across the United States and enable students to become R&D crews for a simulated racing team, where they are then able to rack up points through qualifiers and earn a place on the track for the winter’s sanctioned race series.

“What they bring to schools is basically an extracurricular design-based learning challenge and team activity work,” Kellett said. “Groups of high school students design and build and write and scale RC cars, all over the U.S. and Canada, internationally, India and China. And that was basically how our relationship started.

“But then obviously this year with COVID and most of the schools being closed, most of the students weren’t able to participate in the program, so we got together and came up with the iRacing International STEM league challenge.”

The registration site recently opened up, and teams are expected to take to the simulated race tracks next month. A total of 50 Student Team Memberships have been sponsored by iRacing for the Fall Qualifying Season and Winter Race Series, which is scheduled to run from February through April and end with the iNSL iRacing Innovation 500.

“What that is basically is instead of the RC cars, is the teams now each get an iRacing license. We’re starting with 50 of their top teams as a pilot program, and they get to compete using that service.

“The engineering challenge here is that they have to design and build the test program…their own simulator peripherals rig, so your standard steering wheel and pedals and stuff, but they actually have to go out and build that themselves. So that’s kind of where the engineering challenge comes into it.”

More information about the initiative can be found at iNSL’s website.

Unsurprisingly, given his background, this is not the first time Kellett has been involved in a STEM program.

“No, it’s not,” he said. “My personal interest is from my engineering background. When I was going to school I was part of my university’s Formula SAE team, and that program shares a lot of similarities with the RC car program, except that we were actually building a small scale race car.

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“So that was kind of some firsthand experience to really help me appreciate what you can learn from these kind of programs, and then as an athlete, I think it’s really important for me use the platform that I have to promote something that I believe in, and that’s STEM education and these kind of programs.”