Wednesday, April 10, 2024
HomesingaporeYoung enthusiasts design, make and race miniature F1 cars ahead of S’pore...

Young enthusiasts design, make and race miniature F1 cars ahead of S’pore Grand Prix

SINGAPORE – A record number of more than 400 youth from 26 countries took part in the F1 in Schools World Finals at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) from Sept 10 to 13, in the lead-up to the F1 Singapore Grand Prix that begins on Friday.

Students formed teams to design and manufacture miniature F1 cars, then race them along a 20m track. The top prize – which included the F1 in Schools World Champions trophy as well as university scholarships – went to Recoil Racing, comprising six 16- to 18-year-old students from Marie-Therese-Gymnasium in Erlangen, Germany.

Since its beginnings in 2000, the competition has evolved to feature a more holistic F1 experience.

Participants needed to learn about physics and aerodynamics to design and manufacture their miniature race cars. Each team had to also seek sponsorship and manage budgets to fund their research, and travel and accommodation to participate in the world finals in Singapore.

Teams were judged on their verbal presentations, portfolio, pit display, marketing skills and engineering abilities.

The competition was designed as an interdisciplinary challenge, said Mr Terry Lim, managing director of Mastereign Group, a training company and coordinator for F1 in Schools Singapore.

He told The Straits Times: “It is an application of various subject areas. The fastest or best-engineered car does not win it. There are many other aspects like presentation skills and budgeting.”

Singapore’s sole representative at the finals was XCLerate Racing, comprising students from XCL World Academy, an international school in Singapore.

Although they had only four months to prepare for the world finals, they said they learnt a lot from meeting like-minded competitors and hope the school will continue to participate in future F1 in Schools competitions.

“We want to mentor the next generation of XCLerate Racing team members and pass on all of our knowledge. Then they will have the best chance and not start off from zero, but with some sort of foundation,” said David Fiore Lopez, 16, XCLerate Racing’s team leader and engineer.

Students who have taken part in F1 in Schools over the years have gone on to secure roles at several F1 teams, including current world champions Red Bull and contender Mercedes.

Ms Amy Martin, 23, first took part in the competition in 2015 when she was 14 years old.

She was the team manager of Tachyon, an all-female team from Wales.

During the 2016 World Finals in Texas, she was selected to be a member of the Williams Engineering Academy, and has since been mentored by various members of the Williams Formula One racing team workforce.

“The first time that I really wanted to be in F1 was when I was in the paddock in Texas. I met (former F1 champion) Nico Rosberg, and I just thought I would do anything to make my life like this every single day,” said Ms Martin.

She now works in the F1 industry with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in finance.

Ms Martin said that although the industry is very male-dominated, there is a lot being done to bridge the gender gap by showcasing women who are influential and key players in the sport.

“I think it’s really important to have prominent figures, like Claire Williams, who was the team principal of Williams, and Ruth Buscombe, who was head of strategy at Aston Martin, to be very visible to women and fans of the sport,” she said.

Athena Racing from Greece, an all-female team, told ST that they joined the competition to promote women in Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“We want to promote the idea that, especially in Stem subjects, girls have a chance too,” said Kyriaki Iliopoulou, 17, Athena Racing’s design engineer.

Mr Andrew Denford is the founder and chairman of the F1 in Schools challenge. When he conceptualised it in 2000, he wanted to change mindsets about Stem subjects and increase interest in engineering.

“When we’re learning maths and science in school, it’s generally not that exciting. If we’re applying it to an end product that will get an end result, like improving the speed of a car, then fantastic. So it’s an exciting way of learning subjects that are really important in your school life,” he said.

This was echoed by the youngest team at the world finals, Sidewinder from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

At only 11 and 12 years of age, they beat much older competitors when they were crowned Rookie National Champions at the UAE National Finals, before making their way to the world finals in Singapore.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes and it’s not just about making a car,” said Rhys Bunting, 12, the team’s head of enterprise.

“A lot has to happen for the car to be successful throughout the competition. Ambition is a big part of it too, as we started on this when we were nine and 10 years old,” he added.

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