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The power of play as a teaching tool

Caterpillar’s life-size Hot Wheels racetrack showcases the value of stem education and the latest in Cat machine innovation

The power of play as a teaching tool

Caterpillar manufactures some of the most advanced machinery in the world—excavators capable of moving mountains, generators that can power entire hospitals, road graders that move with millimeter precision. But there’s more to these machines than raw horsepower and cutting-edge GPS technology.

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To show just how capable they are, Caterpillar created the Cat Trials. Unlike traditional proving grounds, the Cat Trials take a decidedly unfussy approach to putting heavy machinery through its paces. Previous Trials have featured skilled operators playing an oversized game of Jenga with 600-pound playing pieces and a collection of autonomous bucket loaders playing PAC-MAN on a 30,000-squarefoot game board. For the most recent one, Cat Trial 11: Hot Wheels, Caterpillar created a life-sized racecourse.

Here, Kelly Kyer, Caterpillar’s global brand strategy and activation manager, reveals the strategy behind the company larger-than-life challenges.

Why did Caterpillar start the Cat Trials?

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The Trials live at the intersection of Cat machines, services, and technology. Our goal is to use gamification to showcase the capabilities of our products, bringing the potential of these machines and services to life for our customers, brand fans, as well as a broader audience. For Cat Trial 11: Hot Wheels, we also focused on an audience of STEM education students as well as innovators.

How does Cat Trial 11: Hot Wheels focus on innovation?

We wanted to showcase what’s possible with our equipment—and also have fun. We also wanted to demonstrate the real-life application of innovation in our newly launched 982 XE Next Generation Medium Wheel Loader (featured in the Trial) that our engineers spent more than of six years perfecting. Between its ability to track ever y thing from material moved, hours worked, and fuel burned, we think it’s a prime example of industry innovation.

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Why did you collaborate with Hot Wheels?

Both companies understand the power of play—and the continued need for innovation across industries. That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that many of us have a lot of love and nostalgia for playing with Hot Wheels cars back in the day, along with our Cat excavators, wheel loaders, and trucks.

How did you build the racetrack?

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Safety is a core value here at Caterpillar. To ensure both safety and success, we brought in professional track designers as well as multiple customer operators from across North America to design and build our 6,500-foot true-to-life track.

Operators leveraged Cat 3D GPS technology to create a precise uniform track width, following the exact specs given by the professional stunt drivers, Tanner Foust and Greg Tracy.

Why does Caterpillar value STEM so highly?

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Every day, Caterpillar’s 11,000- plus engineers and technologists work to develop innovative solutions to help our customers succeed. However, continuing this pace of innovation requires more students to pursue STEM education.

We know that students who foster innovation and creativity within a STEM program will be even more prepared as they join the industry and attempt to solve future challenges for key industries, including construction, mining, electric power, off highway industries, and more. As an industry-leader with more than 12,000 granted patents to our name, we feel strongly about helping to build that pipeline.

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