How the STEM program is helping grow the sport of BMX.
In the world of BMX racing, municipalities and parks departments adhere to the “If you build it, they will come” mantra when considering construction of a BMX track in their community. This is not the case in Pryor, OK where a BMX enthusiast, his employer, and the USA BMX Foundation have found a unique model for new track development: STEM education.
The story begins in November 2014 when John Schaffitzel, who was preparing for Grands, heard the words “BMX” on the TV. The local news channel was reporting on the USA BMX STEM Program and their work in Tulsa Public Schools. John’s interest peaked and that was when he knew he needed to find out more about the work the USA BMX Foundation was doing in schools with STEM and BMX bikes.
BMX racing is important to John. His employer, MidAmerica Industrial Park, had been investing in STEM education in Mayes County, Oklahoma for a number of years, and he had raced as a kid, but didn’t get back into the sport until his son began racing at Sand Springs BMX. Since that time, John held several positions at the track and served on their Board.
Forty-five minutes east of Tulsa sits Pryor, OK, a quiet small town of 10,000 people. As you drive through town, just east of Hwy 69, you see it - a massive, white, nondescript, square building with a few oddly placed windows. The only distinguishing feature on the building is a set of four circles that adorn the entire side of the building. These petri dish looking circles are actually eight stories high. From the highway they appear to be art, almost resembling something you would see in a vision test. Turns out, they are groups of photos of different items in a single category. The first is swimming pools, the second is circular farm formations, the third is salt water ponds, and the final circle is made up of wastewater treatment plants. All of this makes zero sense until you realize you are looking at one of Google’s server farms adorned with images from Google Earth. The images represent the information that flows through this location to be accessed by citizens all over the world. This is where the internet lives. Pryor, Oklahoma. Welcome to MidAmerica Industrial Park, the home of one of our newest tracks and the nation’s first BMX venue dedicated to, and built for, STEM education.
THE USA BMX FOUNDATION
Mike DuVarney, Executive Director of the USA BMX Foundation, remembers the call from John like it was yesterday. “He introduced himself and said something about being a long time BMX’er, and then he started telling me about the industrial park. I remember hearing something about Google, a University and a CNC machine”.
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