Business Tools

SEMA Custom Car Camp Introduces Kids to the Industry

By Kenalyn Ang

The SEMA Custom Car Camp taught campers basic vehicle mechanics by giving them a chance to assemble and disassemble Traxxas RC cars.

The first-ever SEMA Custom Car Camp was hosted at the SEMA Garage in Diamond Bar, California, from July 18–22. The camp was designed to introduce kids ages 10–13 to the possibilities of the automotive industry and give them hands-on experience in the custom car hobby.

“The car camp demonstrates how you can start with RC cars and use them as a stepping stone to an actual car,” said Nathan Ridnouer, SEMA vice president of councils and membership.

Inspired by another car camp called Nitro X Camp in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the SEMA Board of Directors established the first of its kind here in Southern California. The board hoped to focus on how to infect kids with the car bug. With smartphones, new transportation options and affordability of car ownership serving as deterrents, there has been a perception that fewer young people are discovering a passion for cars. SEMA hoped to diminish that perception with this program.

“Through this summer camp pilot program, we test drive one of many ways that the industry can reach and influence the next generation,” said Ridnouer.

The Custom Car Camp taught campers basic vehicle mechanics by giving them a chance to assemble and disassemble Traxxas RC cars. Campers saw the possibilities of 3D printing, as SEMA staff engineers and members used CAD software to print out parts the campers designed and customized for their model cars. Students could visualize their ideas in CAD files onscreen.

“[Seeing] the ideas they had and to be able to watch them on a projector, that stuff just blew the kids away,” said lead camp counselor and Nitro X Camp leader Byron Byker.

Teen mentors were available to introduce campers to real-life cars with custom tires and paint jobs.

“The counselors are involved in the industry,” said Ridnouer. “Some have custom cars of their own.”

Campers individually customized their RC cars in preparation for the final race at the end of the week and also took turns using real tools, such as an impact drill, to work on an actual car. The experience truly opened their eyes to the industry as they were encouraged to pursue any budding interests in cars.

“When they go home, they’re watching the cars go by. They’re starting to identify cars, and now they want to go to a race. They go back to school and tell their friends, and it goes from there. One little moment is going to affect them for life,” said Byker.

The Custom Car Camp was developed out of a love for cars and can serve as the backbone to get kids interested in the automotive industry.

“While they may not be at the same level of understanding as some of our members, the kids have the same interest in finding out the impact of any change to the vehicle, which we think is really cool,” said Ridnouer.

The SEMA Custom Car Camp was a successful first run, as it provided a safe and fully equipped space for kids to pursue any ideas they may have had, whether it be designing, constructing or assembling something related to the automotive world.

As Byker said, “There’s never a bad idea, and man, do the kids shine.”

For more information on the SEMA Custom Car Camp, visit