IE women make their mark on Grand Prix
**This article first appeared in the Exponent on April 22, 2022**
Only one sorority will compete in this year’s Grand Prix.
Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, has competed in Grand Prix ever since the ‘90s and remains the only sorority with its own team.
“It’s a very fun project for a lot of the girls and something that we are very passionate about as a sorority,” pit chief MacKenzie Becker said. “I’m very proud of our long history within the Grand Prix race, and we love being able to get together with the rest of the Grand Prix community and be able to put our car out on the track.”
The team is comprised of seven women in the sorority, including Becker, a senior in industrial engineering, and driver Regina Park, a sophomore in material science engineering.
Women from the sorority interested in participating in the Grand Prix work together on their car during the off season to prepare for the event. Any member of the sorority who demonstrates an interest in participating in the event can join.
Becker was selected by her team members as this year’s pit chief because of her background with working on cars. At her high school in Texas, she said she raced for her school’s Solar Car Challenge, an annual solar-powered car race for high school students.
Becker said her team designed, built and raced solar electric vehicles, which is what sparked her interest in racing as well as engineering. She also said she still helps out with her high school’s involvement in the Solar Car Challenge throughout the summer.
“I go from Grand Prix at Purdue in the spring, and then this summer I’ll run back to help out with solar car racing, and I’m back out on Texas Motor Speedway helping judge the vehicles and helping facilitate putting on the race,” she said.
Park also said she was familiar with the racetrack. She and her sister worked at a go-karting place near her home in Colorado, and she go-karted there often.
“It’s been a bit of a learning curve, a little different than go-karting, but it’s really fun,” she said.
“I think racing is made best when it’s full of stands of people cheering and loud cars making fun noises with their engines and everybody is all together cheering one another on,” she said. “That kind of camaraderie that comes with racing is what I’m most excited for.”
When comparing the Grand Prix kart with go-karts, Park said their kart for Grand Prix goes much faster, and their track has more sharp turns.
“It’s definitely a different feeling than go-karts, because go-karts usually have power steering and are indoors,” Park said. “With the Grand Prix, it’s a bit more intense I’d say.”
The sorority’s kart has been passed down through the years, and different parts get changed or upgraded overtime, according to Park and Becker.
“Our kart is a bit on the older side, but we just got a brand new engine which has been really nice,” Park said. “It was built a long time ago by a few girls in our house, and it’s been needing a bit of upkeep, so we usually replace parts and upgrade them.”
Every new member of the team brings something new to the table, which shows in the evolution of the kart, she said.
“(The kart) is always adapting and kind of growing over time with each new segment of the team,” Becker said. “I think it’s interesting watching the areas of knowledge people have coming into the team.”
Becker said their main goal for the Grand Prix is to put their car out on the track and cheer on the other teams, especially other women-led teams.
“We’re excited to be a part of the community and proud to be able to say that we can participate and be out there with all the other teams.”