NASCAR Celebrates STEM with Chevrolet Diversity Scholarship and VIP Weekend

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USC Student Cindy Yen Takes First Place with Fuel Mileage Video

Four students who showcased their creativity using STEM were presented with the NASCAR Chevrolet Diversity Scholarship and a VIP Weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in early November. Photo from

For the third time in as many years, NASCAR has partnered with Chevrolet for the NASCAR Chevrolet Diversity Scholarship presentations, which honored four individuals who are primed to make a difference in the field of STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“There are many entry points to NASCAR for young and diverse audiences and STEM is certainly one of them,” said Dawn Harris, Senior Director of Multicultural Development at NASCAR. “By recognizing these talented students and bringing them to the race track, we’re showing them first-hand just how integral science and technology are to the sport, while also hopefully inspiring the next generation of NASCAR leaders and innovators.”

Four students took home a scholarship, with amounts varying in range from $10,000 (first-place) to $2,500. The finalists and a guest also received a VIP trip to the race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in early November, including airfare, lodging and transportation. The four winners were:

  • Cindy Yen, University of Southern California — $10,000 scholarship
  • Weston Dell, University of Notre Dame — $5,000 scholarship
  • Nima Desai, University of Houston — $2,500 scholarship
  • Nicole Forero, Broward College — $2,500 scholarship

“NASCAR is proud to work with Chevrolet and continue our longstanding commitment to STEM education by recognizing these tremendous students,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “These four students were recognized from an outstanding pool of candidates, and it’s a testament to the continued engagement of students in the pursuit of science and technology careers in our sport.”

But, just how did these students win a scholarship? It all comes down to 90 seconds, some creativity and an idea.

Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, students between the ages of 18 and 25 were asked to create a 90-second video that shows how technology is used in NASCAR (i.e. the digital dashboard, air gun for pit stops), how the technology has solved an issue in the sport and exactly how professionals came up with its design.

Students wanting to go above and beyond with their creative efforts could explain an original STEM-based innovation and how it would help NASCAR.

“We’re looking for folks that actually capture the technological innovation,” Global Chief Diversity Officer for General Motors Ken Barrett told applicants in an introductory video. “Get 90 seconds out there and be creative,” added Alba Colon, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Manager for Team Chevrolet.

Colon, who recently won the Hispanic Heritage Foundation STEM Award said in the application video that the scholarship is, “a great opportunity to go into communities and get kids excited about the STEM field, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Yen, the grand prize winner received $10,000. Her video focused on fuel mileage in NASCAR and how the difference between winning and losing a race could be as simple as how far you can go on a tank of gas. Yen’s video featured her illustrating aspects of fuel mileage on a whiteboard and doing calculations, along with a voice over so that viewers can easily understand what she is calculating.

“When I found out I won the scholarship, my parents and I were both happy,” Yen stated. “I was happy because it was a free trip to a NASCAR race, and I got to go behind-the-scenes. I mean, the money is great too, but having that experience is priceless.”

From a pace car ride to a press conference and even receiving hot passes (access to the garage and pits during the race), Yen had an unforgettable time and got to meet both drivers and media personalities alike.

“I got to meet a lot of folks in NASCAR that I looked up to: drivers such as Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and Danica Patrick,” mentioned the first-place winner. “I told her (Patrick) how much of an inspiration she was to me and how she is the reason I am a full-time NASCAR fan.”

For someone who desires a career in the NASCAR media industry, the most exciting part of Yen’s time at the race track was meeting the folks who cover NASCAR on a daily basis.

“I was super excited to meet people working in NASCAR media because I want to work in the media industry. In addition, being able to see where they worked in the media center was a dream come true,” stated Yen.

Yen won’t forget the fact that she was introduced to the crowd at Texas Motor Speedway and had the thousands of fans in the stands cheering for her.

“That was a great feeling to have complete strangers who are part of your NASCAR family be excited for you and be supportive of you,” she said. “I’d like to thank everyone at NASCAR and Chevrolet for the opportunity and providing me with the time of my life.”

“It’s an exciting time in the STEM field with the advancement of technology,” said Barrett. “At GM, we celebrate unique perspectives propelled by diversity and champion innovative ideas; Ideas that change the automotive industry and the world.”

These four students certainly showed how STEM benefits NASCAR and are primed to be the next generation of industry leaders.

Students interested in applying for the scholarship next year should monitor

For more NASCAR news, follow @Kraig_Doremus on Twitter and Medium.

This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.

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