Car Designers Need Math

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Do you have the kind of child who will not look at math homework, but whose neck might break if a fancy car drives past? The kind who can have actual conversations about engine design but refuses to talk about issues that they are encountering with multiplication? Or the type who could watch Formula One races with unprecedented attention but blank out in their math class?

You may just be in luck because math and car design are far from mutually exclusive. In fact, car designers need math.

Right from the beginning, your child will need an understanding of geometry, perspective and comprehension of angles just to draft their fancy vehicle of choice: Car wheels are circles, hood tops are arcs and windows are rectangles.

This also goes for making the car pieces fit. Each bolt, screw, wheel and handle must be measured correctly because if the parts don’t fit together, then the car won’t stand. Additionally, your child may be required to program the robot who is assembling the parts. They will need to know how far the robot’s arm needs to swing and at what angle and how far off the ground the machine parts need to be. Geometry and spatial awareness are truly a must.

Math remains crucial through the engineering side of things, from working out speed capacity to fuel efficiency. A complex level of math is necessary to understand aerodynamics, which is part of the reason that formula one cars go so fast.

Once the car is designed it needs to be tested and its performance is evaluated using math. Race cars in particularly are timed when they turn corners, and data needs to be gathered on instantaneous speed at specific points in the course, to work out the number of laps the car is in the lead for and to assess various driver ratings. Statistics are important here.

Then there’s engine economy, and once again, math is needed to make sure that your car isn’t guzzling too much fuel, although Volkswagen did find a way around that – also potentially using math (but we won’t go into that).

In any case, the bottom line is: if your child was born to drive than they were also born to do math because the two go hand in hand.  



Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one.  She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.