When it comes to enthusiasm for F1 in Schools, I go from 0 to about 100 in about 6 seconds. I’m a judge at the National Finals of F1 in Schools at Silverstone. F1 in Schools is insane- it’s like an in club for motorsport maniacs, where when you’re in, you don’t tell anyone about it. Some of the schools here have competed for more than five years in a row. Some of the schools here have travelled from Northern Wales, Northern Ireland and deepest, darkest Scotland. These are kids on a mission: to make it to the international finals in Austin, Texas. They’ve also finally found a use for the 3D printers that schools keep buying without really thinking about how to operate them. The schools have collaborated with some pretty impressive people (Dell, Airbus, BMW, Renishaw) and some pretty renowned university departments. They’ve found sponsorship, they’ve offered their services as F1 in schools experts and they’ve taken advice from expert engineers. These are the McClaren teams of the future, only without the bottomless wallets. When they were left short for their wind tunnels, they created a low-cost water-tunnel testing system to visualise the flow of air over the car’s body. Their mom’s have made custom chocolates branded with the team names. They’ve used all the acrylic in their D&T workshops. They’ve given talks in their old primary schools, they’ve met F1 celebrities and they’ve mastered their Launch Energy Recovery System (LERS) systems. They’ve been on a journey to get here; winning their regional finals and having only a few days to turn it around for Nationals. F1 at schools don’t pay for their travel, flights or hotels, so these guys have to find local industry support. They’re weeks and months away from GCSEs, A-Levels and A2s: but they’re not panicking: they’ve got to the national finals of an incredibly prestigious competition. The parents and teachers who accompany them have driven hundreds of miles, stayed behind for countless hours after school and mediated some pretty intense discussions. The industry support from the likes of Nissan and NAC means the teams get their cars professionally printed with high tech equipment in a factory, perfecting the curves and straightening the axles for launch. There was even a ‘Women in Motorsport’ category, awarded annually to an all-girl group of engineers. The two winning teams this year were from Chester and Wales.
Out of 10 British finalists, 7 were girls- I think that’s a pretty good stat.