ABU DHABI- Hundreds of young Formula One enthusiasts from across the UAE have been putting their engineering, technology and business skills to the test, competing for glory in this year’s F1 in Schools National Finals.
This week, they’ve been racing their creations in time trials on a straight 20-metre, indoor track at Yas Marina Circuit.
Propelled by carbon dioxide cartridges, the small balsa wood F1 cars were timed to the nearest 1/1000th of a second as they zipped along the track at speeds of up to 80km/hr. Racing in pairs, the cars typically reached the finish line in a little over a second.
The teams designed their vehicles using the latest 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software such as Autodesk, which includes a virtual wind-tunnel testing program. Working within strict parameters, their aim was to produce cars that are as lightweight and aerodynamic as possible.
But F1 in Schools is about far more than just speed. The teams had to run their campaigns like a real F1 team, funding and marketing their projects, managing a budget, tying up sponsorship deals and presenting their ideas.
They were judged not just on the quality and performance of their cars but on a host of factors including their team uniforms, design portfolios, verbal presentation skills and their promotional pit displays.
“It’s fantastic to see so much young talent and enthusiasm on display here – not just in terms of engineering but in all areas of running a business, such as communication skills, marketing and leadership qualities,” said Al Tareq Al Ameri, CEO of Yas Marina Circuit.
“We believe in investing in initiatives that support the development of future talent, particularly in areas such as engineering, science and technology-based subjects, where there is a skills shortage in the UAE. The F1 in Schools competition has introduced the youngsters to Autodesk, the leading 3D design and engineering software – experience with this kind of industry technology is invaluable to the students, and that’s why we support the F1 in Schools program.”
Yas Marina Circuit is looking for business partners and sponsors to make future events even more successful, Al Ameri added.
Teams this year competed in three categories, according to age and experience. Sunday (May 11) was the Professional Class competition for students aged up to 18 years, many of whom have taken part before.
Monday (May 12) was the Rookie Class competition, geared towards students aged 14 and under, who are participating for the first time. Tuesday (May 13) was the turn of the younger entrants, aged 9 – 12, competing in the UAE Bloodhound Primary Schools Competition
The winning team in the Professional Class category was Safire Racing from the German International School, Dubai, while the Rookies Competition was won by Project Speed from Repton School. Both teams will now go forward to represent the UAE in the F1 in Schools World Finals to be held at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi, later this year.
“It’s unbelievable, we’re just so happy to have won,” said 12-year-old Findlay-Broch McCallum, team manager of Project Speed. “Going up to collect the trophy was so emotional, it was really amazing! I can’t wait for the World Finals.
“The whole team has worked really hard for this, giving up their weekends and spare time to work on the project. We’ve really enjoyed it and learned so much. You learn how to work as a team and it’s taught us how being really committed to something leads to success.”
Project Speed also picked up the award for the best engineered car, impressing the judges with their aerodynamic, bullet-like design.
Winners of the team identity award in the Rookies Competition were Superluminal Racing from Dubai British School. Huzaifa Mohamed, 14, the team’s design engineer, said F1 in Schools had helped him develop valuable skills for the future.
“Since I was four years old, I’ve always watched the F1 and wanted to work in the industry, so when this project came along I jumped at it,” said Huzaifa. “I want to be an engineer, so learning how to design a car on industry software has been a fantastic experience.
“Working to strict deadlines has really pushed us and made us work more efficiently as a team. There’s so many things I’ll take away with me from this experience that will hopefully help me in the future.”
As well as first, second and third place overall, there are awards for the fastest and best engineered cars, team identity, pit display, design portfolio, and verbal presentation.
The teams’ designs had to comply with strict technical regulations, such as a minimum weight requirement of 52 grams.
The students were encouraged to test their cars’ capabilities at Yas Marina Circuit’s Centre of Excellence, which has a CAD software studio, wind-tunnel testing facilities and two 20-metre race tracks.
F1 in Schools aims to engage with schoolchildren and get them excited about the work of an F1 team so that they might go on to consider careers in different areas of the sport, particularly engineering.
By testing their skills in various disciplines, including engineering, marketing, sponsorship, design and technology, the idea is to nurture their personal development while enabling them to have fun.