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Detroit Youth Make History on a Global Stage in Abu Dhabi for the World’s First Professional Autonomous Racing Championships

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan Joins Forces with Code19 Racing to Propel Youth into the Forefront of Mobility Innovation

[DETROIT, MI] – MAY 14, 2024 – In an extraordinary showcase of skill and innovation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan (BGCSM) has launched its groundbreaking Mobility Industry Club in partnership with Code19 Racing, marking a significant stride towards integrating Detroit youth into the forefront of the global mobility industry.

This ambitious initiative was christened as nine talented Detroit youth on the BGCSM team joined the world’s first professional autonomous racing team, Code19 Racing, and participated in the prestigious professional Autonomous Racing Championships held in Abu Dhabi. Competing against 18 teams from around the world, including college teams with advanced-level students, the Detroit team proudly secured the 5th position, a mere second behind the fastest team and leading the high school category.

“We’re proud to see our BGCSM Industry Club youth not only become history-makers in this industry, but to see them truly doing what they love to do, using their passion and expertise to position themselves for the future,” said Shawn H. Wilson, president and CEO of BGCSM. “Being the top high school team and narrowly missing out on the top overall positions against seasoned college teams speaks volumes about their capabilities and our program’s impact.”

The Mobility Industry Club in partnership with Code19 provides hands-on experience while creating leap-ahead opportunities in the mobility industry through the development of a youth-led racing program.

“We truly appreciate our partnership with Code19 Racing as this helps us provide a platform for young minds to explore and contribute to the cutting-edge field of artificial intelligence and robotics,” Wilson continued.

Code19 Racing is an AI and robotics company, competing in global autonomous racing competitions.  Founded by military veterans, Code19 Racing is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of autonomous racing and was selected to represent the United States in inaugural Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League (A2RL) event at Yas Marina Circuit this April.  Code19 Racing not only competes at the highest levels of the sport but also serves as a platform for technological advancement, research, and development in autonomous vehicle systems.

“This isn’t just a STEM partnership, it’s a talent pipeline. The Detroit AI driver team was able to get hands-on experience in AI and robotics through the exciting world of autonomous racing​​​​,” Lawrence Walter, Team Principal at Code19 Racing, emphasized the importance of their partnership with BGCSM. “We fully expect these youth to become engineers on our pro team and become leaders in the mobility industry.”

Penske Corporation and the Detroit Grand Prix, longtime supporters of BGCSM, are key to the launch of the Mobility Industry Club. With its rich legacy in transportation and professional motorsports, Penske Corporation brings invaluable expertise and resources to this initiative.  The program adds to the Penske organization’s efforts in developing diverse STEM talent in the Detroit area, including through its involvement in the Detroit Grand Prix, hosted annually on the streets of Downtown Detroit (May 31-June 2, 2024).

“Penske Corporation is proud to help support all the efforts of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and the opportunities created for local students through racing and the automotive industry,” said Bud Denker, President of Penske Corporation. “What an amazing experience the students had with Code19 Racing as they represented not only Detroit but all of the United States in the Autonomous Racing League in Abu Dhabi. We are so proud of these talented youth and we are excited to see what the future holds for them.”

Black Bottom Ventures, a Detroit-based strategy and venture capital firm, was instrumental in bringing the partnership together as a Code19 Racing strategic investor.

“This partnership is the perfect embodiment of our model,” says James Feagin, Managing Partner of Black Bottom Ventures. “We’re creating wealth by investing in Code19, while also cultivating the next generation of mobility talent. Our vision is to scale this approach globally, but we had to start here, in Detroit.”

The Mobility Industry Club program will continue to take place at BGCSM Headquarters located at Michigan Central, giving youth access to cutting-edge startups in tech and mobility.

For media inquiries and further information, please contact: Antonice Strickland | (734) 812-4423


About Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enabling young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens. BGCSM provides a safe and nurturing environment, along with life-enhancing programs, to thousands of youth across Southeastern Michigan. Founded in 1926, BGCSM’s mission is to ensure youth leave our Clubs career, start up and homeowner ready. Learn more at or follow BGCSM on Instagram at @BGCSEM.

About Industry Clubs

The Industry Club model is shaping an Ecosystem to fulfill our mission of empowering youth to excel in college, careers, and entrepreneurship. Through our Industry Clubs, participants not only gain expertise directly related to their chosen program but also cultivate cross-functional skills such as communication, organization, technical literacy, and time management, among others. Self-efficacy stands as a cornerstone of our program.

BGCSM’s Industry Clubs offer paid workforce training and entrepreneurial development over a 12-week period in fields like entertainment, fashion, design, data science, risk management, and sports. Pioneering the initiative nationally, BGCSM’s Industry Clubs engaged 350 Detroit youth in 2023, aged 14 and up. By 2025, BGCSM aims to expand the Industry Club model from 6 to 14 Clubs, with a target of employing 2,500 youth annually.

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