Sept. 29 challenge puts driving skills to the test

Ford FocusNIU students, faculty and staff members have an opportunity to put their driving skills to the test from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Convocation Center parking lot as part of the Ford Focus Test Drive’s Laser Hunt Challenge.

The winner of this precision driving competition will earn bragging rights, but everyone will receive a chance to show their Facebook friends how well (or how poorly) they did behind the wheel of one of the most popular cars in America.

Each car running the course will be equipped with two cameras, one facing the road and another facing the driver. Cars also will carry lasers that record the number of road markers drivers successfully pass over, with each marker worth points. The videos also include information on the driver’s speed, g-forces pulled, elapsed time and other information.

NIU is among 30 universities in the country to be included in the event, said Kjell Kallman, who works for the Jackson Dawson marketing firm that represents the Ford Motor Co. All participating universities have campus chapters of the American Marketing Association.

“This is not a race; it’s for fun. It’s a social media marketing event,” Kallman said. “We already have nearly 200 students and faculty members registered.”

This all sounds like fun, but work is involved, Kallman said. After the event, each chapter will write a paper and the winner of that competition will receive $1,000.

NIU junior and marketing major Jordan St.Clair, a Rockford native, said the event sounded too intriguing to pass up.

“When Ford contacted (NIU’s chapter of the American Marketing Association), we voted and decided we wanted to be part of it,” said St.Clair, director of information systems for NIU’s AMA chapter. “We’d like to see as many people register as possible.”

Registration is free and open to anyone with a valid driver’s license. Registration is available online. Drivers also can register the day of the challenge.

Drivers are urged to bring their skills and keen eyes, but not their cars. Buses, provided by Enterprise Rent-a-car,  will shuttle students, staff and faculty members from Barsema Hall and the Holmes Student Center to the Convocation Center.

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