Henry Ford’s Auto Racing Adventure

Henry Ford raced to victory on a dirt track in Grosse Pointe on Oct. 10 1901, defeating Alexander Winton, the best race car driver at the time. In The Auto Race That Changed Everything video, Henry Ford wins a race in 1901 that gets him back into the car business after an early company had to go out of business. Henry Ford’s 1901 Sweepstakes racer story is a good example of the engineering design process in action.

WHAT questions
Each question corresponds to a step in the Engineering Design Process. Henry Ford was a great engineer as well as a person with great ideas, as well as the ambition and determination to build a car company.

Watch The Auto Race That Changed Everything video and look for examples of how Henry identifies problems and solves them.

  • What? (Ask questions, understand the need, identify the problem) – Henry Ford had some big problems to solve. The video talks about several in detail.
  • So What? (Imagine, brainstorm, explore) – Henry Ford got help from many people to come up with the winner. There were not very many cars in 1901 so very many people knew anything about cars. So Henry found other people to help him – a bicycle racer and a dentist as well as others.
  • Now what? (Plan, design) – Henry worked hard on his car design for many months before the race. As he decided what strategies to use for his race car and the race, he worked on all the different parts and how to make them work together. He needed a car that could perform well for a long race, even if it wasn’t the fastest. It wasn’t like modern car races where large crews are available to repair the car during the race.
  • Do It (Create, try it out) – Henry’s car was smaller and lighter than the other cars.
  • If this then what? (Improve, make it better) – While he was building and testing his car, Henry made a number of changes as he learned more about the car’s performance and the conditions for the race.

Engineering vocabulary, concepts
wheels, power-train, cylinders, fuel injection, ignition, insulation, ceramics, spark plugs, speed trials, turn apex, endurance / sprint races

Show and Tell
Now it is your turn. Henry solved a lot of problems building the car for the race. Pick one part of the car and explain and share a detailed solution design proposal for that component. There are some resources listed below but you are not limited to those.

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