Science and technology go hand in hand with high performance, and Sonoma Raceway continues to do its parts to help develop the next generation of engineers and scientists through its youth education initiative for the 2015 race season.

The raceway's goal is to provide real-world experiences and programs to educate students about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as they relate to motor-sports events and business.

For the second consecutive year, Sonoma Raceway will partner with Kid Scoop News and Friedman's Home Improvement on a gravity-powered car challenge, which will culminate on Saturday of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.        

Ten North Bay schools will take part in the program, which challenges students to develop and construct a gravity-powered car, test the effects of different factors and race them down a sloped track. In just its second year, participation in the program increased from three to 10 schools, which will engage more than 300 3-5th grade students this year.  

Schools taking the green flag on this year's challenge include Bahia Vista Elementary (San Rafael), Cali Calmecac Language Academy (Windsor), La Tercera Elementary (Petaluma), Loma Verde Elementary (Novato), Marguerite Hahn Elementary (Rohnert Park), Meadow Elementary School (Petaluma), Napa Junction Elementary School (American Canyon), Pleasant Valley Elementary (Novato), Waldo Rohnert Elementary School (Rohnert Park) and Washington Elementary School (Cloverdale).

The cars developed by the student engineers will race in a series of qualifying rounds at their respective schools prior to NASCAR race weekend. The finalists from the qualifying rounds will battle for victory in the final round at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, June 27, in the Wine Country Winner's Circle. The winners of the 2015 Friedman's STEM Car Challenge will receive a trophy and tickets to Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 race.

"It is hands-on, exciting real-world lessons like this that really engage students in STEM at a young age," said Vicki Whiting, curriculum developer and publisher of Kid Scoop News. "If they think science is fun in elementary school, they are more likely to stay interested through high school and college."

Kid Scoop News is a monthly tabloid newspaper used by more than 1,000 teachers throughout the Bay Area. Each month the newspaper explores timely topics, promotes health and fitness, teaches financial literacy, and showcases student writing and artwork. The paper is packed with games, puzzles and brain teasers that grab young readers' attention and keep it.

For more information on Sonoma Raceway's youth initiatives, visit www.racesonoma.com/kids  or call 800-870-7223.