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Photon Racing Reflect on the F1 in Schools World Finals 2017

06 October 2017

On 29th September, Team Photon set off for their much anticipated trip to Malaysia to compete in the F1 in Schools World Finals 2017. We catch up with Team Photon and their Design Technology Teacher Mr Diver about their experience at this highly regarded international STEAM event and the lessons learned along the way...

  • F1 in Schools - Photon Racing
  • F1 in Schools - Photon Racing
  • F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Back in November 2016, our students were challenged to design, construct and race the fastest miniature Formula 1 car of the future. Almost one year later, and after hundreds of hours of hard work, Team Photon were ready to showcase their car to the world.

From the start of their journey, Photon Racing were determined to be the team that represented BIS HCMC and Vietnam at the F1 in Schools World Finals and proved their resolve by securing $12,500 in sponsorship to secure their place at the competition.

As a result of their determination and perseverance, Team Photon joined 52 teams from countries and collaborations all over the world in Kuala Lumpur. The 3 days of intense competition included assessment of:

  • the speed of the car,
  • the team’s enterprise, marketing, business management and teamwork skills and;
  • the team’s creativity and professionalism in their ‘pit’ display.

Team Leader, Nguyet Vo describes how the team felt going into the competition; “The team collectively felt nervous and excited upon arriving on the first day. We were nervous for the rigorous competition ahead of us. However, we were excited for the opportunity to meet new people from around the world and for the learning opportunities that we were able to find in Malaysia, learnings that we knew we’d be able to bring back to Vietnam and help mentor the next coming team.”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Critical Regulations

Having arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday evening, Photon Racing were immediately put under pressure as the cars were submitted for scrutineering. All the documentation that the team had been ‘tweaking’ for the last few months was submitted and the cars weighed in.

The team met with the judges to discuss any regulation not met and a chance to solve any irregularities. Something akin to the Apollo mission then took place as Photon Racing showed their resilience and went about fixing the issues identified with the car, as Nguyet explains, “Our car did not pass scrutineering review as it had a few critical regulations. The team were given 30 minutes in an allocated time slot to fix these regulations. We got together an hour earlier than the given time slot to discuss how to repair the issues. It proved to be a productive hour as we were able to find solutions regarding the issue. This was the most rigorous challenge as we had to rush through amending both of our cars in such a short timeframe. However, this was a valuable experience that we will be sure to pass on to the next team.”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Photon Racing’s Competitors

A majority of the F1 teams had been competing in the competition for around three years, but this didn’t phase Photon Racing. In fact, it inspired them to work even harder; “The majority of the teams at the competition had more experience than us as they have been competing in the competition for around three years, dedicating their free time to develop the best car according to their ability. However, this did not make us feel nervous or slightly worried as we utilised this to our advantage. It inspired us and made the competition more worthwhile as the determination that permeates the air during the competition drove us all to work harder and be our best without losing the sense of camaraderie. We were able to take this opportunity to garner knowledge from other teams’ previous experiences. It was a great learning opportunity that we can pass on to the next BIS HCMC F1 team.”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

The Racing Begins...

The racing started in earnest on Sunday and Monday, with the first race against Irruenti BG from Mexico, and the second race was against team Pegasus from Cyprus. Both races were close and the best times recorded went to the final placings of the cars.

Our driver Mo, had super reflexes as the cars were launched by hand in the same way a Grand Prix starts. The team’s practice paid off as Photon Racing put in some very competitive race times.  At the end of the two days racing, Team Photon had the 34th fastest car down the track. Time margins were small and every millisecond counted as teams vied for the fastest track time and Antoine, Carl, Nguyet and Tuan cheered the Photon car on. Seeing their car race down the 20m track was the team’s favourite moment of the World Finals; “It reminded us of all the hard work we had put into the competition over the past year and everything we had achieved to get to the World Finals. While our car was a bit slower because of our last minute changes to it (after we sawed parts off to be within regulation length to save points!), we were only 0.077 seconds away from first place at the end!”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Presentations, Interviews and Pit Displays

Outside of the racing, the team were kept busy with pit displays, pit time with their cars, interviews with judges and presentations as Nguyet explains; “We had to talk to judges about our design and engineering process, as well as give a presentation of our journey throughout F1 in Schools as a whole. We felt like we did well for our design and engineering explanations - we covered the aerodynamic concepts involved with the car, and the manufacturing processes that we used. We were particularly worried about the verbal presentation but we finally delivered it in what (hopefully!) was a successful address which covered the entirety of our journey through the F1 in Schools competition. Our pitch even involved cheeky banter with the judges about our favourite F1 racecar drivers!”

The team at each presentation united to show how they had worked collaboratively together on every aspect of the competition. Team Photon describe their teamwork as their biggest strength in the competition, “We think that other teams admired our social and helpful nature as we seemed to have all the tools required to succeed. Our teamwork and strong bond also helped us stick together during the more challenging aspects of the competition.”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Grand Gala Dinner

On Wednesday the teams gathered at the Grand Gala Dinner which was hosted by David Croft from Sky Sports to hear how the competition had finished with Team Hyperdrive from Australia being crowned the winners.  CEO of F1 Chase Carey was in attendance to award the winning team and address all the young F1 in Schools finalists. Antoine describes the award ceremony as memorable and enlightening; “We were able to meet current engineering students from University College London (UCL) and dine with them, this was a useful experience to us as we were able to glimpse into the field of engineering from a student perspective and we were able to find out more information on universities in general for our upcoming preparations.”

F1 in Schools - Photon Racing

Visit to Sapang F1 Circuit

On Thursday all students who had competed in the finals, visited the Sapang F1 Circuit to ride around the track and walk along the pit lane viewing the preparations for the ‘big’ cars racing. Team Photon were lucky enough to receive an exclusive tour of the Mercedes AMG pit garage seeing how engineering and design happens on the world stage and spent time talking to the pit crews and engineers who maintain and work on the F1 cars.

The last two days in Kuala Lumpur were spent at the Sapang track watching the F1 teams practicing and testing their cars ready for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday. They spent their last hour in Malaysia watching the qualifying racing and watching their F1 idols pushing themselves to the limits to win.

The F1 in Schools World Final is the finale of the world's biggest STEAM project, with more young people involved than any other Science Technology Engineering Arts and Maths project on a global scale.

Team Photon were able to meet and network with other young engineers throughout the week and have learned a huge amount over the last 10 months about Design and Engineering, and about enterprise and working to promote a business.

“The World Finals was an unforgettable experience as the team has made lasting friendships with other team members and the experience itself has taught us many valuable things that one could not simply garner from the classroom. We strongly hope that the F1 in Schools competition develops within Vietnam so that this opportunity can be accessible to all students across the country.” - Nguyet Vo

Every member of the team should be congratulated for their participation in the F1 in Schools final. They have experienced successes and learned from their mistakes, they have worked creatively together and embraced collaboration. Team Photon displayed all the hallmarks of what it takes to succeed in the 21st Century and had a great experience competing and representing BIS HCMC and Vietnam.

I hope you will join me in congratulating Team Photon – Antoine, Carl, Nguyet, Mo and Tuan on their seeding of 49th best team in the world from the hundreds of teams that set out to take part in the competition.

Chris Diver, Head of Design and Technology

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