13 December 2021

Canberra STEM students revved up for worldwide F1 in Schools challenge

| Katrina Condie
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St Francis Xavier College students Alec Mills, Zoe Cresswell, Alessio Gambale and Kasey Mitchell

From left: St Francis Xavier College students Alec Mills, Zoe Cresswell, Alessio Gambale and Kasey Mitchell are ready to roll in the F1 in Schools challenge. Photo: Team Innovation.

St Francis Xavier College students are gearing up to take part in one of the most successful science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in the world.

In the lead up to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in April 2022, students will take part in the F1 in Schools challenge, where they’ll design, make and race a miniature F1 car capable of accelerating from zero to 80km/h in under one second.

The St Francis Xavier College team, Innovation SFX, is one of five teams revved up for the upcoming regional challenge, but team manager Zoe Cresswell says they have their sights set firmly on a podium finish at the national championships to be held in Melbourne in April 2022.

“SFX came into the competition in 2018 and we’ve made it to nationals three times,” she says.

“I think we’ve got a good chance of getting to nationals again, and hopefully we’ll get a shot at worlds.”

Zoe doubles as team sponsorship coordinator, and is joined by team-mates design engineer Kasey Mitchell, marketing manager Alec Mills, and manufacturing engineer Alessio Gambale.

Possessing a vast range of engineering, manufacturing, design and business skills between them, the students have been working on their F1 car prototype which will be rigorously tested on campus before they hit the racetrack.

The car has been designed using 3D computer software, and manufactured using 3D printing technology.

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Zoe says everything down to the intricate wheel system can affect the speed.

The vehicles are powered by a carbon dioxide canister and raced on a straight 20-30 metre long track.

This year’s team had the added challenge of working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown, which Zoe says made collaborating difficult.

“It’s been a really different experience, but we’ve been building on what we’ve done previously and taking feedback from the last competition to improve our entry,” she says.

“We’re all excited to be back at school now to test the prototype and prepare for the competition.”

Around 20 million students in 40 countries take part in the F1 in Schools challenge, providing them with a chance to experience many of the fundamentals of engineering, including teamwork, design and planning, manufacturing and testing, and, of course, the thrill of race day.

As well as the car design and track performance, teams are also interviewed by the judges and gain points for their portfolio, marketing and trade stand.

Zoe, who is school captain at St Francis Xavier College in 2022, says the competition provides students with an opportunity to make new connections with professionals in their field of interest, whether it’s marketing, management or engineering, and also teaches soft skills and team skills that will help in their future studies or careers.

Design of F1 car prototype for F1 in Schools challenge

One of the F1 in Schools car prototypes. Image: Team Innovation.

College project coordinator Graham Stock says SFX Innovation has two senior teams in the Professional Class and three year-nine teams in the Development Class.

He says the students gain a lot of “real world skills” by taking part, including 21st century soft skills, critical thinking, problem solving, team work, collaboration and communication skills that a lot of organisations are seeking.

“It’s not just about the car, but it’s a really cool opportunity for students to learn about creating budgets, finding sponsors, engaging industry, marketing and brand identity, and working within corporate guidelines,” says Graham.

The COVID-19 lockdown made it hard for the students, but Graham says during that time they learned about resilience, managing time and overcoming obstacles.

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“It was a tricky transition, but they really rose to the challenge,” he says.

Mirko Milic from Canberra Toyota was pleased to jump onboard and support team Innovation SFX.

“The F1 in Schools program introduces year 11 and year 12 students to the real world of engineering, business and marketing, all of the fields that Canberra Toyota holds in high regard,” he says.

“We are proud to sponsor a program that will help a future generation of leaders.”

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