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Then & Now

Then...

A driver racing down the Merrimack Valley Auto Course in 1908, which began and ended on Pawtucket Boulevard along the Merrimack River Photo by Courtesy of the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History

Before the first Model T rolled out of the Ford Motor Co. in Detroit, the city of Lowell was on the road to making a name for itself in the emerging world of automobiles. 

In September 1908 (nearly a month before the Model T made its debut), Lowell hosted its first automobile carnival and road race, a weeklong extravaganza that brought top drivers from around the world to Lowell for a chance to break speed records and grab a $1,000 grand prize. The event was organized by the American Automobile Association and the Lowell Automobile Club. At the time, Lowell was home to several businesses, including the Heinze Electric Co. and the Lowell Motor Co., both of which manufactured parts for the fledgling auto industry.

More than 100,000 spectators gathered to watch along the Merrimack Valley Auto Course, which began and ended on Pawtucket Boulevard along the Merrimack River. In this photo of the main event, which is from the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History collection, drivers lapped the course 24 times, traveling 254 miles at an average speed of 53 mph. The races not only brought excitement, but they also helped advance both car and street design to improve performance and safety. The event returned to Lowell in 1909, firmly establishing the city’s role in the development of automobiles.

Now...

Members of UML's Super Smash Bros. Club gather on the second-floor Club Hub at University Crossing to play the racing game Forza Motorsport 6

These days, many students spend more time driving on screens than they do on the road. A national 2017 survey conducted by The Washington Post and UMass Lowell found that 73 percent of Americans ages 14 to 21 played an online multiplayer video game or watched someone else play video games online in the past year. Meanwhile, Pew Internet Research found that 70 percent of college students play video games at least “once in a while.”

At UMass Lowell, hundreds of students are members of gaming-related clubs, including the Super Smash Bros. Club, some members of which gathered recently in the second-floor Club Hub at University Crossing to
play the racing game Forza Motorsport 6.

“Video games allow your mind to transport itself into another world, letting you relax and think creatively and without pressure,” says Smash Bros. President Seth Kary, a senior electrical engineering major. “Plus gaming gives me a type of motivation I can't find elsewhere, because the types I play challenge me to be better than everyone else. Competitive games help my reflexes, logic and awareness of situations.”

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