Ford’s Hot Wheels approach to interest kids

Ford’s Hot Wheels approach to interest kids

The Ford Motor Company took a unique approach to interest kids in science and engineering as part of the annual ‘Take your child to work day’ by building the world’s biggest Hot Wheels car track loop yet.

When completed Ford made a world record attempt with a Hot Wheels car track loop that exceeded 12 feet tall.

The attempt was the brainchild of Ford dynamometer technician Matt West, who had built increasingly larger Hot Wheels loops with his six-year-old son Blade at their home in Monroe, Michigan.

The attempt took place in the three-story atrium of the company’s Research and Innovation Centre in Dearborn.

“It started as part-fun, part-physics lesson with my son at home,” said West. “We built one in our playroom, and then built a five-foot-tall loop in our backyard. When people at Ford heard what we were up to, everyone thought it would be a great way to get young people excited about science and engineering.”

The current record of nine feet, nine inches tall was set in Ohio. West and his friends at Ford successfully made a Mustang Hot Wheels car complete a 12-foot, six-inch loop.

“On a track, a Hot Wheels car can only go so fast, so carrying the momentum of the vehicle through an entire loop is harder than you might think,” says West. “ I thought teaching my son with actual moving vehicle models would be so much more rewarding, and then it took on a life of its own.”

With the help of others at Ford, including John Jaranson, technical expert in interior systems, and Grant Compton, computer-aided design engineer, the team created the loop using computer-aided design software called CATIA, which is often used for car design.

Knowing they had to create the super structure out of four-by-eight-foot sheets of plywood, they designed the loop into sections that would get bolted together.

Once designed, the team enlisted the help of Will Brick, general manager of TechShop Detroit, a membership-based, do-it-yourself workshop and fabrication studio, to bring the digital design files to life.

Jaranson is a member of TechShop, thanks to Ford’s relationship with the company, a part-time instructor who helps other members utilise the available tools. The team cut the sheets of plywood using a water jet cutter.

“It’s an honour for Hot Wheels to have inspired Matt West and the Ford team to embark on such an epic world record attempt,” says Hot Wheels senior vice president Chris Down.

“Ford and Mattel have a history going back more than four decades. We both have tremendous passion for pushing the limits of design, and we’re happy to be involved in trying to generate enthusiasm for science and technology for kids everywhere.”

With its signature 1:64-scale models, Hot Wheels has created hundreds of Ford Motor Company vehicles, including many of the original 16 Hot Wheels models released in 1968 – a custom Mustang, Thunderbird and Cougar.

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