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Engineering Edge

A1 Racing Journey to a Championship

In 2009, eight teenage students from schools in Victoria, Australia, began an exciting journey that would lead them to meet F1™ boss, Bernie Eccelstone as his VIP guests at the American F1 Grand Prix as winners of the prestigious Formula 1 in Schools Program.

Figure 1 A1 Racing Team (from left to right): Dyaln Sexton, Ben Marshall, Beau Gieskiens, Luke Merideth, Sam Young, Jacqui Cunningham.

Figure 2 A rendered illustration and simulation results of the final race car design.

The program offers a way to learn for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in a way that is exciting, to encourage more students into engineering careers. It requires a team of students to design, develop, manufacture, market, manage, and race a miniature Formula 1 car. The teams are judged on all these areas but most importantly, and accounting for a third of the overall score, they must race a model car that they have created down a 20 meter track at over 80K/h to a race time of just over a second.

A1 Racing was formed from an amalgamation of two rival national runner-up teams. As high school students they had little experience in areas regarding advanced mathematics and aerodynamics and so sought professional help by contacting Mentor Graphics. Boris Marovic, Automotive Industry Manager, offered guidance and support to A1 Racing by offering tuition in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) as well as running numerous diagnostics and simulations of their model in Mentor Graphics’ FloEFD CFD software. Their weekly sessions ran through until the week of the World Finals, held in Texas last year and were vital to the success of the team. “These simulations were imperative to the success of our car, and the overall success of the team. Through over 500 CFD images we were able to analyze all 23 design stages of the car, ensuring each detail was optimized to peak performance on the track.” said Ben Marshall, 15, A1 Racing Development Engineer.

The collaboration was an important means of giving the young students an insight into the industry, offering them valuable experience of working with engineering experts. It also taught them valuable life skills such as presentation and public speaking, which gave them a massive advantage over other students going into university and into employment. “In Texas, we were pitted against 300 students in 38 teams, from 22 countries around the world. With the CFD knowledge and help, our car was able to achieve the fastest time at the World Championship, an amazing 1.043 seconds.” continued Ben Marshall.

The anxious team waited nervously during the awards ceremony at the World Finals. It was worth the wait, as they were presented not only with the award for the Fastest Car, but also with the 2013 World Championship.

Figure 3 A1 Racing team with Bernie Eccelstone at the USA Grand Prix in Texas

The World Championship award is supported by F1 Management and the City University of London. A1 Racing was invited to the USA Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, and as the World Champions were given VIP access to the Formula 1 paddock and pits where they were presented with a trophy by Bernie Eccelstone. “It was the best feeling to know that after so many years of hard work, we had achieved our dreams. What we had worked for every day and night, we had achieved. At times things were stressful, but it was all worth it. We had a trip of a lifetime. None of it would have been possible without the mentoring and support given to us by people throughout the world. We cannot thank you enough for being involved and helping a group of kids reach their dreams”, Ben Marshall.

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