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Engaging Students: The Growing Smart Car Competition

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

ECE Poster Session

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.541.1 - 14.541.5



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Paper Authors

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John McLellan Freescale

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Andy Mastronardi Freescale

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Engaging Students – The Growing Smart Car Competition Abstract

Whether in the United States, Mexico, China, or other regions of the globe, today’s engineering students all have one common characteristic, they get bored easily if not engaged in their learning. One solution is to hold a “Smart Car Challenge.” It has all the key ingredients that engage a student speed, complexity, design, teamwork and competitiveness.

In 2006, the China Ministry of Education initiated a design contest between undergraduate students, racing autonomous model cars around a track. The results have been phenomenal, growing from 112 teams from 59 universities in 2006 to 615 teams from more than 200 universities in 2008. In this paper, you will find out more about China’s successful Smart Car Competition and how you can bring a similar race to your school!

Engaging Students

Captivating the attention of students has become a growing topic of discussion from all spots on the globe. Texting, video games, TV, portable devices, and a whole slew of distractive mediums all compete for student attention. When looking at high school aged students the difficulty magnifies drastically in part to lack of motivation, culture, and extracurricular activities.

Competitions that “feel” like sporting events seem to have the best success in engaging students. The learning comes from real-world interactive, hands-on type activities. Additionally, the need for educators is paramount and comes in the forms of professional educators and industry mentors. FIRST robotics1 has seen great success with this approach.

Likewise, in the US, universities such as Texas A&M2, Rose Hulman3, and California University of Pennsylvania4 to name a few have created similar initiatives to drive prospective students to there academic institutions or to engage current students. However, these competitions have limited similarities and differing objectives. The Smart Car Competition growth rate is a testament to cohesive government, industry, and academia partnerships for a common objective. The more prestigious the event is, the greater the competition, and more likely a student will self- engage, that is, seek out getting involved.

The intent of this paper is not a comprehensive strategy to tackle this huge and complex problem, rather, to showcase a growing International Competition, the Smart Car Competition5 aimed at engaging students at an early age and teaching the principals of STEM.

History of the Smart Car Competition

The Smart Car race was originally conceived in collaboration with Hangyang University (S.Korea) and Freescale Semiconductor to increase student exposure to cutting edge industry tools. Since the competitions inception in 2003, the event has spread from Korea to China, Malaysia, India and Mexico. In 2008, China alone hosted over 1800 teams from over 600 universities. Overall, the explosive growth of the event is staggering as shown in Figure 1.

McLellan, J., & Mastronardi, A. (2009, June), Engaging Students: The Growing Smart Car Competition Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4983

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