After 10 weeks in Europe learning about the global nuclear energy sector, being back in the U.S. has been pretty great. There is nothing like leaving home for a while to make you appreciate your own culture! So, it made perfect sense that my first stop as a nuclear tourist in the U.S. would be America’s largest annual sporting event- the Indy 500- to see Nuclear Clean Air car driver Simona de Silvestro compete.
Indy car culture is an excellent analog for American culture; it has a very diverse, international appeal and history. It brings together racers and sports enthusiasts from all over the world- including Simona- a Swiss native who moved to the U.S. to chase her dream of being a professional racer. Talk about the American dream!
As a woman in a male dominated field myself, I was extremely excited to see Simona race in what turned out to be an historical Indy 500 for women- she was one of 4 female drivers- a new record for the race. Several other records were set last weekend including the highest overall speed, fastest race and most lead changes.
Among the impressive stats for the weekend, I was actually most impressed by the overwhelming turnout we had the day before the race at the Science, Technology, Math, Art and Science (STEAM) Workshop held for Indianapolis area Girl Scouts. I was lucky enough to be invited to provide the Art component of the workshop.
Over the course of about 3 hours, more than 70 Girl Scouts completed 5 activities ranging from generating electricity from lemons, engineering structures out of spaghetti and marshmallows (yum!) and painting the anatomy of an atom- since we can’t see them with our eyes, we brought them to life on canvas! The resulting collaborative painting was presented to Simona as a good luck gift before the race.
I think our good luck charm worked because over the course of 500 miles, Simona moved from her starting position at 24th to a finishing position of 17th! That’s a big jump! Additionally Simona’s KV Racing teammate and Brazilian native Tony Kanaan won the race!
Something that struck me about the whole Indy experience is that in addition to being a great analog of American culture, it is also a great analog to nuclear culture – International cooperation through the development and engineering of new technologies and safety strategies- there are some interesting parallels. Both the Indy world and the nuclear sector are also seeing more and more women joining their forces, which I think is a really wonderful thing!