Like most student engineering competitions, it exists to encourage and promote STEM education. In fact, the series was started after a 1998 study found a decline in the number of young people in the UK entering the engineering workforce. The drivers and their crews are all in their teens, and come from high schools and charter schools local to each race — these aren’t Andrettis and Earnhardts. In Miami, almost all of them were in some sort of technology or robotics club, but many of them had never raced anything at all — at least not in the real world.
“I’m the best person ever to play Mario Kart, I can’t be defeated.” said Daniella Kennedy, a 17-year-old student on the robotics team at Inlet Grove High School in Riviera Beach, Florida. She’s beaten her friends time and time again on Rainbow Road, but she had never competed against anyone on pavement or asphalt. She didn’t even have a driver’s permit.