GSSM Senior, Marilyn Bertok Contributes to NASCAR Research at Ford Performance Technical Center
Marilyn Bertok has always been on the fast track. As a senior at the SC Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM), her summer research project was conducting NASCAR research at the Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord, N.C.
Bertok was born with racing in her blood. Her parents and grandparents have competed in various disciplines of motorsports. Her family now owns and operates Panic Motorsports in West Columbia, South Carolina, so naturally, 17-year-old Bertok’s summer research was destined to revolve around auto racing.
“My grandfather did rally,” Bertok said. “My grandmother did navigating for him for a little while, and then my mom started in autocross and went to Spec Miata’s, and my dad was doing drag racing when he met my mom and then switched over (to road course racing).”
At GSSM, all students are required to participate in a research experience before graduation. Many students do this research in the summer between their junior and senior years. Prior to entering her senior year at GSSM, Bertok was contacted by Ford Performance Simulation Engineer, Dan Tiley, and this past summer, Bertok became the Ford Performance Technical Center’s first-ever high school intern.
“I’ve personally known Marilyn and her family since she was about four-years-old,” Tiley said. “Her dad and I have raced sportscars together in SCCA, both as a team and as competitors for over 13 years. It’s been a joy watching Marilyn grow up at the race track, and as an engineer in auto racing myself, it’s very exciting to see her take control of her educational and eventual career plans at such a young age. She’s a girl with big plans, and huge aspirations. It was a honor and a pleasure hosting her here at Ford Performance this summer.”
Despite being the only female on the team, Bertok made her mark while creating customized racetracks for their Driver in the Loop (DiL) Simulator and collecting data that’s absolutely essential to Ford Performance’s efforts in NASCAR.
“Getting to work at Ford Performance was an incredible opportunity,” Bertok said. “I was able to walk into a completely new situation and learn how to do processes I’ve never seen before with minimal issues because of going to school at GSSM. I was able to take the skills I learned to deal with problems in Engineering and other classes and apply them to my internship, which made the whole thing much easier.”
During her research, Bertok learned how to use the programs at the Ford Performance Technical Center and how to run the life-size simulator. Working long days, five days a week, she assisted the team wherever she could contribute. Bertok’s success stemmed from the time she spent in GSSM’s Accelerate program during her sophomore year. Accelerate is an intensive engineering program delivered by GSSM and its college partners, that offers virtual synchronous and blended courses to 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade students at high schools throughout the state of South Carolina. She said that the Accelerate program aided her in understanding the technology that the Ford Performance Center was utilizing on the biggest stage in American auto racing.
“Really, GSSM helped me with the technology side of things and knowing what I’m talking about,” Bertok said. “In my sophomore year, I was part of the Accelerate program and took an Engineering course, and that significantly helped with just reading through hundreds of lines of code and figuring out what needs to be changed to get it to do what I want it to.”
Bertok expects to graduate from GSSM in May of 2023. Following graduation, she hopes to attend a four-year university, where she can major in Motorsports Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.