x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai teenagers to compete in F1 in Schools competition

Team RedShift Dubai will be one of two UAE teams headed to Malaysia for the finals of the F1 in Schools Competition.

Team RedShift, from left, Rahul Dungarwal, Dominic Palubiski, Mustafa Sheikh and Shounak Das.
Team RedShift, from left, Rahul Dungarwal, Dominic Palubiski, Mustafa Sheikh and Shounak Das.

Many teenagers spend their summer holidays lounging around, but for four Dubai-based pupils, their summer was all about extreme physics, aerodynamics and Formula One.

Team RedShift Dubai, from Dubai College, is one of two UAE teams slated to compete in the world finals of the F1 in Schools Competition in Malaysia. Team Revolution, from the same school, also won a spot in the finals, which will be held on September 19.

Team RedShift placed first in the national finals at the Yas Marina circuit in April. The competition was open to teams from all secondary schools in the country, public and private.

Each team member played a special role in the production of their first car. For the finals, the team started the process of designing a new car to compete with the world's best.

Although it started as a block of balsa wood, the youngsters came up with an innovative design through the use of computer-aided design software and wind tunnels for optimising air flow.

Much like in professional motorsport, they also had to raise money, manage budgets for research, travel and accommodation, and create a pit lane display.

Shounak Das, the team manager and resources manager of Team RedShift Dubai, had to make sales pitches to potential sponsors to raise the Dh150,000 the team needed. So far, they have raised Dh100,000 in cash and Dh50,000 in donations of uniforms and time at testing facilities.

Mr Das, of India, spent his summer brushing up on his business skills at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I learnt a lot and it has helped me approach businesses in a better way as well as work the budget," he said.

And it seems to have paid off. Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi-based company is a sponsor and boasts a decal on the nose of the car.

In the nationals, a panel of judges interviewed each team about its business model, which had to be based on a proper F1 team. The pit lane display, with uniforms branded with a sponsor's logo, was just as important as the car. The car had to keep to tight specifications for weight and wheels. Powered by a standard gas cylinder, it shot down a 20-metre track in just over a second.

Dominic Palubiski, 17, spent his summer testing the new car and perfecting the aerodynamics. "Our motto is a hundred designs, a thousand modifications," he said.

His holiday to his home country of Canada took him to a factory where he could select and test the wheels for the new car. At the national finals, the bearings on their car barely spun. The new ones should spin for 12 seconds.

Once the car's design was completed, it was sent to a facility to be custom-built. All teams used the same facility and Team RedShift Dubai is expected to take delivery of its car this week.

Mr Palubiski was a team member at the finals last year and said his experience will make his team a top contender at this year's event.

He attributes this to "what I learnt from last year and what to do and what not to do with the car design". He also mastered the cross-sectional area theory, which is key to understanding aerodynamics and explains why aircraft are long and thin and not fat and wide.

We expect our car to be very different to other cars, he said. His classmate Raul Dungarwal, 17, from India, stayed in Dubai for the summer. He chased sponsors for cheques and kept an eye on all the developments.

Mustafa Shaikh, 17, from Pakistan, said he studied aerodynamics and mastered Bernoulli's principle, which explains the relationship between air flow and air pressure.

Now that all the hard work is done, the team is ready to race.

eharnan@thenational.ae