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BISC-SL Success in Largest School STEM Competition in the World

Everyday, there are amazing things going on in the classrooms at the British International School of Chicago, South Loop (BISC-SL). Like all of our sister NAE schools across the globe, students are learning in incredible ways from inspiring teachers who set high expectations while making learning fun, supportive, and engaging. 

  • Tesla
  • Tesla
  • McLaren

When talking with any of the teachers or students, it is easy to be wowed by the amazing projects, trips, and leadership opportunities available at BISC-SL. One 'must see' is the Design & Engineering Lab where students are busy working on all sorts of different projects - designing and creating robots, bridges, bluetooth speakers, music boxes with embedded control, and so much more.

One of the extra curriculars on offer here is F1 in Schools and there are three teams that participate in the F1 in Schools challenge, the largest school STEM competition in the world. The challenge inspires students to use IT to learn about physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership/teamwork, media skills, and financial strategy, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive, and exciting way. With 1.3 million students participating from over 40 countries it seems that chances to be successful are slight, but BISC-SL has triumphed and continues to thrive. The growth of the F1 in Schools Competition at BISC-SL has been led by teacher Mr. Edwards.

F1 in Schools is the only global multi-disciplinary challenge in which teams of students aged 9 to 19 deploy CAD/CAM software to collaborate, design, analyse, manufacture, test, and then race miniature compressed air powered cars, made from F1 model block, on a 25-meter track. In addition to the races, the teams must fundraise and seek sponsorship independently, managing budgets to fund their research, materials, machinery, travel, and accommodation. They deploy a full pit display and present to judges in the areas of sales & marketing, business development, fundraising & sponsorship, and engineering. BISC-SL students have formed links with many higher education institutions, including Illinois Institute of Technology and Northwestern University, seeking advice as they work on their projects.  Using software and tools normally reserved for colleges and industry, pupils use cutting edge CAD, computational fluid dynamics and finite element analysis software to refine their designs before manufacturing their cars using state of the art 3D printers and CNC milling machines.

BISC-SL currently has 2 professional class teams and a new, development class team. Alpha1 Racing Racing, the Middle School team, are the current National Champions in the Entry class, and the High School team, Valiant Racing, are the current State Champions in the Professional class. This year's National final will be held in Austin, Texas in June, and all 3 BISC-SL teams will be competing. Alpha1 Racing and Valiant Racing have raised over $100,000 and have secured major sponsorship from McLaren, Tesla, Homer Run Inn Pizza, Thyssenkrupp, and Amazon. This has involved presenting to executives with their value proposition, and hosting fundraisers at Marchesa, Tesla, and McLaren. Students have planned these events, even incorporating silent auctions. Attendees have been able to bid on a trip to Harry Potter on Broadway, a Championship Golf event in Scotland, and a chance to be a NASCAR driver for a day. 

In addition to fundraising, students are tasked with engaging their local communities through community service. Alpha1 Racing has focused on sustainability, working with the Friends of the Chicago River to help with cleanups and educational outreach. Valiant are endeavoring to raise the profile of STEM amongst elementary school children around Chicago.

The F1 in Schools Competition is all encompassing and provides students with unparalleled opportunities. While a lot of work, the students' passion is infectious and they enjoy telling visitors about their projects. So much so that, as the classrooms and hallways empty during weekends and vacations, one can often find these groups of students excitedly working on their designs in the lab. That is a tangible love of learning!