Go Kart racing part of curriculum at Manatee County high school

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PALMETTO, Fla. -  At the Manatee School of the Arts, the words racing and physics are synonymous.  The high school offers a different type of class that fulfills the requirement seniors students will need to graduate:  the Physics of Motorsports.

You can't see it, but behind the helmets of a group of the high school kids on Monday at Anderson Race Track in Palmetto were beaming smiles.

"All our high achieving math students, 8, 9 and 10th grades have been rewarded for their achievement with a day at the track," said Physics of Motorsports instructor Frederick Hillier.

Hillier said it's not just about feeling the rush of cruising around a racetrack instead of being at school for these kids.  It is also to help inspire the students to want to take the physics of motorsports course that Manatee School of the Arts offers, which includes a weekly visit to the track for hands on learning.

"At the finish line, we'll get a velocity," Hillier explained.  "And then they're suppose to break as hard as they can for the shortest stopping distance.  They'll collect the data, they'll go back to school in the next class, and they'll calculate what the g-force was of their deceleration."

The class also fulfills the requirement starting this fall of a chemistry or physics course required for graduation.

"It's Florida recognized standard physics course," said Hillier.

For students in the program, taking the class has helped them find more of an interest in a field that originally seemed  unappealing.

"The physics program launches you in a great way into science but also into the motorsports path to where if you want to be you know an auto engineer or even a go kart engineer, it gets you a great start," said high school senior and MSA Racing Team Crew Chief Lauren Hall.

Nick Neri, who is also a student and a professional Go Kart Champion internationally, said the class gives him a whole new perspective every time he gets in the drivers seat.

"It's given me a much better understanding of the way everything reacts as a driver and being related to engineers much better."

In the end, instructors hope the class will get more students interested in pursuing a career in engineering and even lead to racing becoming a varsity sport.

"If we do that," Hillier said, "We will be the only varsity sport that's academically based."

Manatee School of the Arts is currently the only school in the entire country with a Physics of Motorsports class.