Texas Tech University

Mailbag: Off to the Races

Allen Ramsey

June 9, 2023

Texas Tech and LISD partnered on a STEM project involving races and student-built vehicles.


Welcome back to the Mailbag!

We spent our Friday morning at the races, checking out a cool collaboration between Texas Tech University and the Lubbock ISD called the TTU/LISD Middle School STEM Challenge. 

On the Texas Tech side, the STEM Challenge is part of Texas Tech's STEM Center for Outreach, Research & Education (STEM Core), and the races put teams from each Lubbock ISD middle school up against one another. The race is a half-mile ride on a human-powered vehicle built by the students with help from teachers and Texas Tech student mentors.  


The teams were basically handed some lumber, a bit of PVC pipe, old bike parts and a random assortment of other materials and tasked with building a vehicle. 

“One of the main goals is to get the students STEM-oriented,” Texas Tech student mentor Ashley Hendrix said. “So, allow them to kind of start working hands-on and see different STEM experiences. We want to teach them science-based stuff and want to teach them more math things. 

“And I think the benefit on my side is really just getting to explain what I do in college and kind of share that whole STEM perspective with younger kids so that they can get an idea of what they want to do.”

With parents, teachers and other mentors and fans from both Texas Tech and LISD in attendance, the races were two laps around the Monterrey High School track in two-team heats. 


Seeing Texas Tech represented well alongside the local community is always fun. And the vehicles were amazing. 

These creative groups of students put together a bunch of three-wheelers of various kinds. Some had handlebars and pedals and some were powered Flintstone-style and steered by what looked like an old-time rudder. 

They were all nicely built and the middle-school students did a fantastic job across the board putting together their vehicles and adorning them with decorations and flags supporting their schools. 

It's special for the Texas Tech students as well. Two of the mentors this year even took part in the STEM Challenge as middle schoolers during the first year of the program, and they were thrilled to be on hand to pay it forward. 


“When I had the opportunity to participate in the STEM Challenge, it showed me how to put things in a more realistic way and allowed me to visualize it,” student mentor Makayle Cline said. “I wanted to come back because I saw how big of an impact it had on me as a child and I wanted to be able to be a mentor and share my experience because I was in their exact same position.”

Blake McLemore was also part of that first group of middle school students. And when Cline told him about the student mentors, he knew he needed to get involved. 

“Whenever we were younger, back in 2014, it felt really special,” he said. “It felt cool getting picked out from the rest of the students in our grade. And so that was a big confidence booster. Just getting to have the first hands-on experience out of all of LISD felt really cool. I didn't know that I wanted to be an engineer until all of this stuff started happening. And then it made it pretty easy. 


“As far as now, I didn't know that Texas Tech students could mentor but when Makayle told me about it, I was like, ‘Oh, dang, I feel like I owe something to the program to see if I can recreate how it helped me with a younger generation.'”

All in all, it was a good day to be at the races and a great program we truly hope you will reach to out and try to support. 

Here's to the Texas Tech students, LISD staff and Texas Tech faculty and staff who were all very willing to give their time and effort to make sure community events like this one keep going.

We can't wait to see what the challenge looks like next year!

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