x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Search for a winning formula

Five Dubai teenagers hope to prove they have what it takes at the world finals of the F1 in Schools project in London.

Four of the five pupils, who will take part in the F1 in Schools world championship in London, from left, Kaitlin Jones, Mike Geeson, Andy Helsby, Chengaiz Khan along with the co-ordinator Maurice Quinlan.
Four of the five pupils, who will take part in the F1 in Schools world championship in London, from left, Kaitlin Jones, Mike Geeson, Andy Helsby, Chengaiz Khan along with the co-ordinator Maurice Quinlan.

Could they be the nucleus of a future Ferrari or McLaren team? Five teenagers hope to prove they have what it takes at the world finals of the F1 in Schools project in London later this year. But first, Team Veludicrous from Dubai College must raise Dh100,000 (US$27,000) in sponsorship. "They will raise that money, I'm sure," said Maurice Quinlan, a physics teacher from the college who is supervising the team. "They are a very determined bunch."

The competition involves designing a miniature Grand Prix car and managing a simulated team. Unsurprisingly, given the commercial imperatives that drive Formula One racing, judges look for not just the fastest car, but also for teams that can market themselves and give good presentations about their work. More than 35 UAE schools entered for the national phase of the competition, Team Veludicrous emerging triumphant in the finals at Dubai Autodrome recently.

At the world finals in September they will be up against champion teams from more than 30 countries, including Brazil, Australia and Ireland. Schools taking part are provided with computer software to help them design their cars, which are then cut from balsa wood by specialised equipment. The vehicles, powered by carbon dioxide canisters, have to travel along a straight 25-metre track at speeds of up to 50 kph.

However, there is much more to the competition than engineering, as the students also have to produce a business plan, obtain sponsorship, create a livery and image for their team and give a presentation to judges. One member of the team, Kaitlin Jones, 17, from the UK, said she was more interested in the marketing side of the competition. A good image was vital. "If you're in uniform it works so much better - it makes the biggest difference," she said. "I am going to revamp the uniform. It's got to be matching colours and we have to stand out."

dbardsley@thenational.ae