[Editor’s note: This story marks the editorial debut of Jake McBride, our summer intern. Please welcome Jake to the Hemmings family.]
This June through August, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will be hosting their second-annual onsite summer camp. The program is a day camp that will teach kids aged 6-16 what it takes to be an automotive designer, builder, racer, and innovator. The summer curriculum aims to groom the next generation of gearheads as they participate in activities that are as entertaining as they are educational.
The camp offers five week-long sessions in total, two of which are devoted to racecar engineering for 11-15-year-olds, one is an advanced racecar engineering program for 12-16-year-olds, and two additional sessions, called the “Junior STEAM” camp, focus on teaching basic automotive knowledge to 6-10-year-olds.
Activities range from building and racing model CO2 drag racers to programming autonomous cars. The STEAM program puts a unique spin on the STEM acronym, adding Art into the mix with the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The museum’s website explains this addition, stating that “Many of the cars in the collection were not only built for performance but designed for beauty and built by craftsmen.” The STEAM approach intends to explore all facets of the automotive experience to help campers fully understand what makes these cars so special.
Rick Adams, the head of the museum’s devoted education department and creator of the camp, says that the kids will be able to get behind-the-scenes looks at the extensive collection up close. The CO2 drag racer is their biggest project of the week, he explains. Every camper gets to pick what their car looks like and build it from the ground up with the help of the staff. Then, they have the opportunity to run their prototypes on the drag strip. “We have a scale wind tunnel as well,” Adams adds. “The kids can run tests and then go back and make changes.”
The CO2 drag race is always a student favorite.
With STEAM, the camp’s hands-on activities and classroom lessons are car-centric but also “…relevant to many different subject matter areas including history, social studies, science, technology, math, and art.” If you know an eight-year-old enthusiast who refuses to do their math homework, this may be the place to send them. Make sure to sign them up soon though: Adams says spots are still available but that full attendance is expected when the first session starts on June 17.
Since it opened in June of 2008, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum has created quite a name for itself, providing an inside look into the design and passion behind historically significant race cars and winning the International Historic Motoring Association (IHMA) Museum of the Year award twice, once in 2011 and again in 2017. Once home to an engine remanufacturing company, the museum building is now a 78,000 square foot masterpiece full to the brim with impressive automobiles including a 1921 Vauxhall Tourer and a 1967 Ford GT40.
The collection of eighty-two vehicles, nearly all of which run and drive, has been assembled and carefully curated by Pennsylvania native and prominent neurosurgeon, Dr. Frederick Simeone. A singular theme runs through the whole collection from the 1907 Renault Vanderbilt Racer to the 1997 Ford Nascar Thunderbird: The spirit of competition. Simeone credits the collection to “a caring father and a focus on a niche of motordom… the successful sports racer.” The museum is well-known for its signature themed demo-days during which several vehicles are driven out to the three-acre lot behind the building, giving visitors a chance to see the cars in action and learn more about their stories.
Because of the vehicles’ significant racing histories, the museum works hard to preserve rather than restore, believing firmly that the tales the cars tell of years bygone are as important as the vehicles themselves. The Simeone Foundation was an early adopter of this practice that has become increasingly popular among auto collectors in recent years. While paint, bodies, and interiors are generally left alone, the cars are mechanically restored to running and driving condition in order to be able to participate in demo-days.
If you’re thinking of a particular six to sixteen year old who is itching to build a racecar or you just want to know more about the program, visit the summer camp’s website at SimeoneMuseum.org/Education/2019-Summer-Camp-Information/.