STEM classes help driver further racing career

Zach Veach will make a speed presentation Saturday during the Dayton Regional Science Festival.

Like most kids sitting in high school math and science classes, Stockdale’s Zach Veach wondered “when am I ever going to use this?” in the real world?

His answer came soon after. Veach, who plans to drive for Andretti Autosport in the Firestone Indy Lights series in 2013, has been using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to further his racing career. On Saturday, Veach participates in the Dayton Regional Science Festival with The Presentation of Speed from 3:30 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 7:30 p.m. at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery on DeWeese Parkway. He also will have his open wheel car on display and sign autographs from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5:45 to 6:45 p.m.

“I go to the racetrack and my engineer is trying to tell me something and I say hey I learned that in class a week ago. It’s really interesting,” said Veach, who turns 18 on Dec. 9. “… We thought it would be a perfect fit to show them STEM really does go out to the real world. I’m using those very same things in a race car right now.”

The three-day science festival titled Ignite Innovation started Thursday and offers events at Boonshoft, Chaminade Julienne High School, Dayton Diode, the National Museum of the United States Air Force and the Dayton Art Institute.

After missing about 50 days of school a year with his racing, Veach, a senior, enrolled at the Ohio Virtual Academy/K12, an online educational provider. In addition to his racing he’s used his STEM classes to develop urTXT, an application designed to fight texting behind the wheel, and has fought cyber bullying with Mehmet Cengiz Oz (aka Dr. Oz). Veach also wrote a book titled “99 Things Teens Wish They Knew Before Turning 16” and was named a NEXT athlete by ESPN The Magazine for 2012.

“While (missing school and falling behind) I was a victim of being bullied just because I didn’t want to play football or baseball,” said Veach, who added his size of 5-foot-4 and 100 pounds also made him a target. “I wanted to stand out and be a professional race car driver. I was never the biggest guy either, and they always poked fun at that.”

Veach, though, might be the last one laughing. Last month he set a speed record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the youngest driver to do so. His racing plan is to spend two years in the Indy Lights program and move into the top-level IndyCar Series after that.

“The most important thing for me, and it’s what gotten me to where I am today, is never give up,” Veach said. “Keep fighting to chase your dreams and work hard to achieve them.”