F1 in Schools: Paving The Way For A Greener Future?

Oct 22, 09 F1 in Schools: Paving The Way For A Greener Future?
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They wear long-sleeved overall suits or short-sleeved collared shirts designed with stripes and lines of bright colors. Some wear matching caps printed with their team name, logo, or sponsors.  They could easily pass as members of a car racing team in Formula One—if not for their age.  Many of these students are still taking elementary math classes.  Yet, they have chosen to participate in F1 in Schools, an international racing competition for children aged 9 to 19.  These children build and race cars no bigger than their own hands.

These mini racing wheels are made to go fast.  These little cars may look like the top shelf toy cars you can find in toy stores.  Yet, you should not underestimate them.  These mini cars are not just toys.  They are made of balsa wood—setting them apart from the die cast or plastic bodied toy cars.

Second, they are crafted using Computer Aided Design (CAD) or Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) programs, which make the tailoring of the balsa cars very precise.  An example of one such program is the F1 Virtual Wind Tunnel software or F1 VWT, which is specially made for the F1 in Schools’ participants.  This program makes use of computational fluid dynamics or CFD so that the probable amount of air resistance against a balsa car being designed is taken into consideration.  In laymen’s terms, the balsa cars undergo almost the same design process as a real F1 car.

Another thing that makes the mini cars unique is that they are made by intelligent youngsters who want to create something unique as part of a team.  That is not far from what the founders of F1 in Schools Ltd. wanted when they first launched the competition in 1999. They wanted to raise students’ awareness in motor sports (specifically the F1) as well as change their perceptions of engineering as a boring field of science and technology.

Now, with nine million students from thirty countries having participated in the competition, it is safe to say that F1 in Schools Company has been successful in realizing its objectives.  The competition is held every year in one of the following countries: Australia , China , England , Wales , Germany , Malaysia , Ireland , Northern Ireland , Scotland , South Africa , South Korea , United Arab Emirates , and the United States .

After the registration and screening process, student teams get access to tips, CAD tutorials, and sponsorship referrals.  Besides these things, they need to work on their own.  They have to raise their own funds in order to finance their equipment, materials, research, and travel.  The F-1 in schools program has done an effective job of raising the profile of engineering as a career.  Today’s F-1 racer may be tomorrows green architect.

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