Home Content Writing Reading, writing and arithmetic important for automotive pursuits | The Canberra Times

Reading, writing and arithmetic important for automotive pursuits | The Canberra Times


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Here’s a tip for kids interested in anything automotive, and their parents. Take a serious interest in words and numbers. The core principles of education have always been reading, writing and arithmetic, and they remain as true today as they have ever been. It doesn’t matter what other subject or topic you wish to go and learn more about, the three Rs as they’re known, are the basis upon which you will be able to understand them, and as well as to communicate your own ideas to others. It doesn’t have to be just doing your schoolwork either (but you need to do that too). Most of what I read as a child were car magazines and books. Many were also well above my supposed reading level at the time. That meant I would regularly come across words and concepts that I had to look up in the dictionary or ask an adult to help me understand, which also increased my vocabulary, and this process continued well into my teens. For new inventions it continues now. My parents were clever enough to recognise this and, as one of many examples, for my 9th birthday they gave me The Encyclopedia of Sportscars edited by GN Georgano. Aunts and uncles also gave me car books and magazines for birthdays and Christmases, and they can still be a great gift idea for kids today. They’re probably easier to supervise than digital alternatives too by checking if the content is suitable for them to see. That particular book, among others before and after it, also brought the concept of time to my attention, by which I mean the awareness of at least several decades of gradual mechanical advancement that occurred before I was born. Most forms of technology have improved dramatically over the same time so that’s an important concept to grasp. It also brought to my attention the many different companies in many nations achieving these things simultaneously, sometimes with two or more businesses in cooperation with one another, and sometimes in direct competition with one another. Sometimes one company would acquire or merge with another. Sometimes a company would fail to sell enough product and simply close. That book told me the De Tomaso Pantera, for example, was mainly built so Ford could sell a supercar in the USA. “It was a truly international car in every way,” the book said, “with a US Ford V8 engine, German transmission, British brakes and steering, French tyres, [and] Italian body and assembly.” I later learned that ZF could only supply half as many transmissions as De Tomaso wanted because it was also used in the Maserati Bora and others, so I could argue that this helped me understand economic basics and globalisation when those concepts were introduced to me in high school. I certainly had something to relate to when the teacher started talking about world-wide supply chains, availability of skilled labour and maximum production capacities. A comprehension of numbers was also important when it came to understanding various specifications and measurements, and then how to compare them with other vehicles. Displacement, ratios, power, torque, speed, revolutions per minute, weight and many other measurements are all part of understanding a vehicle’s capabilities and whether one is better than another. That same book also helped me understand how the metric system is different to imperial measurements. I was already aware that kilometres had replaced miles, but litres replaced cubic inches, centimetres and metres replaced inches and feet, kilowatts replaced horsepower and Newton metres replaced pounds-feet, and it helps to be able to convert them. If you want any career in the automotive world when you grow up, be it as a local tradesperson or working for a race team, you will need to have mastered at least the basics of language and mathematics. And if you want to go to university to become someone who is really clever like a designer, engineer or aerodynamicist, you’re going to need those skills to be very good indeed. Meanwhile, the more you comprehend from taking an interest in words and number systems the more it will also help you understand about the world and how it works, now and for the rest of your life.


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