A crowd of more than 500 attended the Palm Beach State College Foundation’s fourth annual STEAM luncheon recently at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts. The luncheon featured NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, the first woman speaker for the event.
The event raised money for the foundation’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiative to help prepare students for the high-paying, high-demand positions immediately available in these industries.
Before Patrick’s remarks, Yvonne Boice, event chair, announced that the Boice Family Foundation would give $150,000 toward student scholarships in STEAM fields.
During the conversation-style interview, moderated by Dan Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine, Patrick spoke about starting her racing career go-karting with her younger sister, the technology that goes into the design and materials of her race cars, and ways to inspire more young women to enter and stay in STEAM careers.
“It’s about taking something they’re interested in and letting that grow,” Patrick said. “We need to nurture those interests and show them the many ways that they can use their talents. I firmly believe that you can make a career out of anything that you’re interested in. You just have to figure out how to adapt it into a job.”
Patrick also noted that although many women see her as an inspiration in the male-dominated world of race car driving, she doesn’t feel the pressure of being a role model to women.
“I don’t feel different, and I don’t want to single anyone out because of gender or anything else,” Patrick said. “I never had a role model, so I didn’t want to be like anyone else. I just wanted to be the best I could be, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. I can give advice to a woman, but I would do the exact same thing for a man.”
When asked what race day was like, and the physical toll it takes on her body, Patrick said, “It’s basically like doing a marathon. This is why I rely so much on my engineers. If my engineers do a good job, it’s easy to drive. However, the heat inside the car is the worst. It will reach anywhere from 130 to 140 degrees, and a lot of drivers have passed out.”
Patrick also explained some of the key factors to winning a race.
“You always want to establish good teamwork with your engineers, and as a driver, your experience gives you an advantage, too,” she said. “I can help identify by experience what needs to be adjusted based on the feeling I get while driving the car. Instinct plays a big role.”
To date, the STEAM initiative has raised $2 million. With those funds, it has created 623 new student scholarships, created 65 new student internships, established 55 new business partnerships and enhanced 66 programs.
The event’s presenting sponsor was Bank of America. Other top sponsors were Yvonne Boice, Balfour Beatty, FPL, Modernizing Medicine, Palm Beach Broadcasting, Tenet Florida Physician Services, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, The Palm Beach Post and WXEL.
To learn more about opportunities to support the foundation’s STEAM initiative, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/foundation/steam or call (561) 868-3450.
Established in 1933 as Florida’s first public community college, PBSC offers more than 130 programs at locations in Lake Worth, Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Belle Glade, and soon in its new Loxahatchee Groves campus.