‘F1 in Schools’ is a global challenge for students aged 9 to 19. Teams of 3-6 people use CAD/CAM software to design, analyse, test and then race miniature F1 cars powered by compressed air. They must also raise their own funds with sponsorship to cover their research and travel with the potential to reach and race in national and international championships. Team Origin were the UK Champions in 2017, going on to finish 5th at the World Championships and this year will return to the World Finals as the English Champions. I spoke to the team’s Technical Director, Yaren and Team Manager, Rosie about their roles and how ‘F1 in Schools’ has inspired them to pursue careers in motorsport.
For many of those wanting to work in the motorsport industry, the sport has been a lifelong passion. However, this was not the case for Rosie and Yaren who didn’t discover their love for racing until beginning the ‘F1 in Schools’ project. “The programme has introduced me into the incredible world of motorsport and the amount of work and commitment that it takes to succeed. I had no idea which direction I wanted to go in and this programme has given me a direction,” Rosie said, with Yaren adding: “it has been so incredible to be a part of an engineering programme which supports girls to such a large extent. It has definitely opened my eyes and encouraged me to want a career in motorsport in the future.”
With their school being a big supporter of the programme, it is part of the curriculum in Year 8 and so every pupil gets a taste of the competition. Any students who are particularly interested or gifted, are then considered for the school team. “After working hard in lessons, we were selected to join Origin in 2017,” they told me. “The selection process is done by the Lead Technology teacher at our school who considers the individual personalities and capabilities of each student in order to create the dream team.” The scheme is held in high regard with students being tasked with many things that take place in a real F1 team. They must design, build and race their car, but with the project being self-funded, must also produce their own sponsorship and as well as portfolios showing the engineering and marketing they have done. “Students are also required to give 3 presentations that cover their overall project outcomes: engineering, enterprise and a formal presentation of the project as a whole,” they explained.
The team have their own individual roles that they must fulfil in order to achieve. Yaren is Origin’s Technical Director meaning she is responsible for the testing of the prototypes as well as producing the final car. “The process includes CNC Milling, sanding, painting and assembly. I also work on the overall design development of the car and on the writing of our Engineering portfolio. I am responsible for the quality of this portfolio and the presentation that goes with it,” she explained. Whereas, Rosie is Origin’s Team Manager. Her role involves project planning and organisational aspects. “On top of this, I manage most team branding and marketing, as well as assisting with sponsorship interactions,” Rosie described.
In only a few days, the team will travel to Singapore for the ‘F1 in Schools’ World Championships, however this is not the first time they have been to a high-profile competition. In 2017, Origin finished 5th in the World Championships something they had hoped for, but hadn’t realistically believed was possible. “I joined the team three weeks before the National finals and was told that we almost certainly wouldn’t place, let alone qualify for the World Finals and yet we became the UK National Champions. Having spent the five months between the two competitions working solidly, we were delighted with this achievement,” Rosie said, yet it was even less expected by team-mate Yaren. “I joined the team after they became Development Class National Champions and went straight to the World Championships so I definitely did not expect to do so well at my first ever competition with Origin,” she told me.
For this year’s competition, they’re aiming for the top award. However, with there also being prizes for other categories, Yaren and Rosie are hoping to succeed in their respective areas of responsibility. “Apart from the obvious aim to become World Champions, winning the Best Engineered car award would be fantastic and we would definitely love to see our car among the top 3 in speed,” Yaren explained, with Rosie adding: “becoming World Champions would be the cherry on top of the cake, but I would love to win the verbal presentation award as we have spent so much time preparing for this and the enterprise award having been nominated for this at the 2017 World Finals.”
One of the bonuses of reaching the World Championships is that it gives those taking part more exposure, especially from an engineering perspective. With F1 teams often sending representatives to the competition, it can be an opportunity to try and impress. This proved to be the case last year when Yaren was selected to be a part of a Williams F1 team scheme. “The programme is a 7-year scheme that takes you from college through university and into industry. All ‘F1 in Schools’ World Finalists are eligible to apply, provided they are between the ages of 16-18. Firstly, an application form is filled out where you must answer a few questions about yourself and from this, 25 people are then chosen to take part in a selection day during the World Finals. Up to 10 people are chosen each year and I was lucky enough to be 1 of the 8 to be chosen in 2017,” she explained. Once part of the programme, participants are assigned online units to complete throughout the year with each topic having a link to Formula One. They are also given a mentor that they can contact when needed and will regularly Skype to discuss their progress. “At the end of the year we are all then set an assessment which gets marked by Williams Engineers and determines whether we move onto the next year in the academy. With this cycle, each year up to 2 or 3 students are dropped, leaving only one or two students by the end of the programme who then get the opportunity to work for Williams,” Yaren told me.
Although not yet eligible, Rosie is hoping that she will be able to also join the scheme in the future. “Joining the Unilever Williams Engineering Academy would give me the chance to explore my potential and focus my career path. The opportunity to learn from an experienced engineer and the career advice offered by Unilever’s engineering team would be highly beneficial and help me to identify my goals for the future. As Yaren said, it is a very selective application and interview so I will try to prepare for this as best I can,” she said.
With neither having had an interest in the sport before beginning the ‘F1 in Schools’ project, now both are looking to pursue careers in motorsport, with the aim of working in F1. “Through some involvement in the research for our car I have developed a keen interest in aerodynamics, particularly fluid dynamics. I would love to be at the forefront of innovation and part of the research and development process to improve the performance of an F1 car in future,” Rosie described, with Yaren similarly saying aerodynamics is her area of interest. “I would ideally like to work in the aero/astro field of engineering as I find it fascinating. The smallest change in the aerodynamics of an F1 car can make a huge difference, something I discovered within ‘F1 in Schools’, and knowing this, I would love to see how I could contribute to improving the performance of an F1 car in the future,” she explained.
Without having taken part in the ‘F1 in Schools’ project, neither Yaren or Rosie would’ve discovered the world of engineering and motorsport. Now they are both keen to work in Formula One, the pinnacle of innovative design and technology. Yaren has already been accepted onto a scheme run by Williams F1 team, with Rosie hoping to follow in her footsteps in the next few years. Speaking of the advice they would give to schools thinking about taking part, they said: “if you want to be really successful, you need to give it 100% and commit fully. There is so much to do and in a team of maximum of 6 people it is extremely crucial that each person gives it their all. If you do that, it will pay off. It is such an incredible programme which has taught us many essential life skills that we would not have learned in any classroom and we are so grateful.”
Photo credits: Team Origin and F1 in Schools.