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F1 Success at North Leamington School - 07 June 2012

A team of Yr 9 & 10 students from NLS recently won first place in the ‘Rookie Class’ in the National Finals for the F1 in Schools competition, which was held at the NEC.

F1 in Schools is a challenge where students from over 40 countries compete for the Bernie Ecclestone F1 in Schools World Championship trophy. This involves using CAD/CAM computer software to design, analyse, manufacture, test and race miniature F1 cars. The cars are powered by compressed gas and can reach speeds of 50mph over a 20m track. Not only is there is a rigorous set of technical regulations to follow but the students have to demonstrate the wider functions of a real F1 team, including all aspects of marketing and sponsorship.

As you may imagine, putting together a winning entry for such a challenging event is not done overnight, and has been a steep learning curve for all since the team started last May.


Step 1

To start with, the team focussed on basic car design – learning what can be achieved with the computer based design and manufacture facilities within the Design Technology Department, and what designs made the fastest cars. This culminated in a race in the school gym that was won by a car with the curious name of ‘Team Chicken’

Things became more serious in the autumn when we started to look more deeply into the competition, in particular the 24 pages of Technical Requirements and 31 pages of Competition Regulations. Engineering was obviously important but there were just as many marks available for marketing, presentation, team image and pit display.

Step 2

The team started work on sponsorship early and managed to secure funding from Tompkins Construction, George Myers Goldsmith and Halfords. To gain sponsorship from Halfords the team had to give a formal presentation of the project, which was useful practice for the competition.

The organisers encourage collaboration with professional engineering companies and so the team went to see the Advanced Manufacturing Unit at Warwick University. The staff and students there were very helpful and manufactured a bespoke set of wheels for the car using a state of the art rapid prototyping machine.

There were several software tools to master. Drawings were produced using Solidworks, which not only creates 3D images but also supports a facility called ‘Computational Fluid Dynamics’. This allows the airflow over the car to be modelled using special software and, with addition information from mechanical wind tunnel and smoke generator, was used to optimise the design of the car.

Step 3

After Christmas i was a mad rush to get ready for the Regional competition in February. So far, the main focus had been on engineering but there was still a lot of marketing to do. The team decided to call themselves the ‘Whittle Wonders’ after Sir Frank Whittle, who was an old boy of the school. The school logo was transformed into something more suitable for a racing team by incorporating a picture of an F1 car and a set of wings. A three minute video of the project was made, which will hopefully appear on the school web site in due course. Everything needs a web presence these days and so a web site was also constructed.

Judging at the competition is based on assessing marks in nearly 30 categories, including the car’s speed, application of CAD/CAM, innovation, team identity and presentation technique. An A3 portfolio documenting all the activities was also one of the requirements – including all design stages, marketing activities and project planning.


The Regional competition, held at Loughborough University, was a great success, with the team winning trophies for Innovative Thinking, Fastest Car and Best Rookie Team. However, it was apparent that things were not going to be so easy at the National Finals. Many of the other students were from 6th form colleges and also had several years of competition experience to build on. Some teams had done really well with sponsorship – one team had £7,000 to spend on things such as marketing and bespoke engineering components.

A lot happened in the three weeks between the Regional and the National competitions. The car was completely redesigned; a new process to design and make

decals to finish the car was mastered; the portfolio was re-written; the presentation was improved, and practiced, and practiced...

The National competition was an amazing experience. It took place over 2 days at the NEC and was held in conjunction with The Big Bang, which is a science and engineering exhibition for schools. Thousands of people attended, many of whom visited team Whittle Wonder’s stand and learnt about the development of the car. At the award ceremony, in front of many hundreds of people, North Leamington Schools’  ‘Whittle Wonders’ were awarded First Prize in the Rookie class for first time entrants.

Next year we will be looking to repeat our success in F1 in Schools, and perhaps also take on other technical challenges.



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