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Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

School of Engineering and Technology students find work at 'The Racing Capital of the World'

May 24, 2018

IUPUI student Isaac Atkinson looks over data with IndyCar technical director Kevin Blanch in the tech inspection area on a morning before Indianapolis 500 practice. Liz Kaye/IU Communications.

IUPUI student Isaac Atkinson looks over data with IndyCar technical director Kevin Blanch in the tech inspection area on a morning before Indianapolis 500 practice. Liz Kaye/IU Communications.

By John Schwarb

The experience of walking into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time can be exhilarating, if not overwhelming. The oval is 2.5 miles around, the grounds more than 500 acres.

It's a lot to take in, especially on the last Sunday in May.

But for Amelia Jakubec, that experience also provided clarity, an "a-ha" moment as she entered the IMS for the first time in 2016 on the morning of the 100th Indianapolis 500.

"I looked at my dad and said, 'This is what I want to do for the rest of my life,'" Jakubec said.

The Toledo, Ohio, native was just graduating high school and about to attend IUPUI. At that moment, she knew the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology's Motorsports Engineering program would be her career path. Getting back to IMS -- not as a fan, but on the inside -- was a goal.

A goal that only took her two years to reach. This May, the sophomore has been interning with the Verizon IndyCar Series technical inspection team, making sure that the cars vying to win the 500-mile race are properly prepared and racetrack-legal.

On a mid-May day leading up to qualifying for the 102nd Indianapolis 500, Jakubec was one of three Motorsports Engineering students working the inspection bays. Fellow sophomore Isaac Atkinson and junior Owen Gilliland were at opposite ends of the garage, checking wheelbases and wing measurements.

"It's like thousandths of an inch," Atkinson said of the measurements. "There's a lot of unknowns with the aero kits on cars right now; these wings have never been used before. So we have to come up with new numbers -- engineering stuff, I guess."

The students arrive at IMS with plenty of "engineering stuff," thanks to training from Motorsports Engineering faculty such as Andrew Borme and Chris Finch -- former IndyCar team engineers themselves.

Tech Inspection

Darren Brubaker Tech Inspection Rollout
From the top: Owen Gilliland, Amelia Jakubec and Isaac Atkinson, from left, are working for IndyCar technical inspection through Indianapolis 500 race day. IUPUI student Darren Brubaker is working for Ed Carpenter Racing, monitoring fuel levels and other data on Danica Patrick's No. 13 car. Once leaving technical inspection, IndyCars are free to hit the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Darren Brubaker, a senior with one more class to finish this summer for his degree, has been working for Ed Carpenter Racing for nearly a year. This month, he's wearing GoDaddy green while on the crew of the No. 13 car driven by Danica Patrick.

Among his responsibilities are tracking the car's fuel supply, which is a bit more complex than watching the "miles to E" readout on a passenger car.

"I use almost all of what I've done in school," said Brubaker, who raced as a teenager against current Indy 500 drivers Sage Karam and Spencer Pigot. "I'm really grateful for my instructors. They've been really helpful and have a lot of industry experience. They're both really good at not only getting the knowledge across, but also a lot of added knowledge that's very helpful when you get into the position.

"You listen to what they say in class, and you think it's going to be a little different, but then when I got onto the team and started actually interacting and seeing everything for myself, it was exactly everything they explained."

 

Race teams and the IndyCar Series have come to trust IUPUI students year after year. The offices at the School of Engineering and Technology get a call to send more talent all the time, and there is never a shortage of interested students.

"They're engineering students, so they understand what we're doing," said Kevin Blanch, IndyCar's technical director. "They understand the numbers and trying to think outside the box and figure out a problem on their own. They come here ready.

"And the teams need young people. The sport is relying on young people, because it's a lot of work."

The payoff, of course, is race days. At the Indy 500, that means more than 250,000 people on-site and millions more on television and radio bearing witness to your work.

"The beautiful thing about it is," said School of Engineering and Technology Dean David Russomanno, "we have so many IUPUI students or alumni on the various IndyCar teams, we're almost guaranteed a winner."

Original story.