CONCORD, N.C. – Alba Colón believes in paying it forward.
That motto can be seen in how the director of competition systems at Hendrick Motorsports spends her time as a mentor and it is further seen in her recent appointment to the board of directors for the STEAM Sports Foundation.
"It’s an honor," Colón told HendrickMotorsports.com. "I have been following them for several years. I even had an opportunity to meet one of the recipients of their scholarship program last summer at the General Motors Technical Center. The STEAM Sports Foundation provides a conduit for participants to try something that they dream of."
The Atlanta-based foundation’s provides scholarships for minority women in the automotive and motor sport industries. STEAM Sports Foundation works with companies, educators and sports groups to develop initiatives around science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics that impact the world of sports and entertainment. In addition, the organization also holds career workshops for women seeking careers in those fields as it looks to provide diversity to an ever-changing industry.
"Education is key to get to where we are," Colón said. "My role model was my dad because he comes from a STEAM-related career as a doctor (M.D.) and I always admired Sally Ride (the first American woman astronaut to fly in space). I wanted to someday be like her. Outside of that, I never had a role model that I could go and say I want to go work on race cars. Let me go and spend an afternoon talking to somebody about race cars. I never had those kind of experiences, but the reality is if we see it, we believe it.
"It is important to see it. I want to be a conduit for younger girls to see you can get to where I am today. You can come here and we can show you cars. You can go to the race track and do anything, but you have to see it to believe it."
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Colón developed her passion for engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. While completing her degree there, she first got involved in the Formula SAE program. It was this program that led to a job with General Motors and it’s a program that she continues to participate in.
"We got an opportunity at the College of Engineering with Formula SAE to build a car," Colón said. "Between six of us, we put a whole car together – designed, built it and came to Michigan to run the car. I did that while in college and from there, GM gave me an opportunity to come and work at General Motors directly in the motor sports program."
The use of STEAM education in real-life projects is something that Colón is passionate about and strongly advocates. She volunteers yearly to help with the Formula SAE competition and to talk to students about the importance of STEAM education.
Colón has been a pioneer in the motor sports industry. She spent 23 years working with General Motors on the racing side before joining Hendrick Motorsports in January of 2018. In her role, Colon directs the Team Operations Center, a vital piece of the team’s operation each racing weekend. The Team Operations Center provides the organization with a central place for the four teams to communicate, present, share information and analyze data to help the organization’s overall performance.
In 2021, she was recognized as the recipient of the Kate Gleason Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation. The award honors a woman engineer that "has had a lifetime of achievement in the engineering profession."
"Alba does a great job of fitting in some very high-pressured environments and leading and mentoring people," team president and general manager Jeff Andrews said. "She’s involved repeatedly with the Formula SAE programs with various universities. She has a knack to guide and lead younger people either wanting to be in our industry or already in our industry."