The 2017 World Finals are being held from 24th to 27th September in Malaysia, with three days of intense competition. F1 in Schools challenges students to create their own Formula 1 team which is commissioned to design, construct and race the fastest miniature Formula 1 car of the future. We are now in our third year of competing in the global F1 in Schools challenge and this year promises to be just as thrilling.
We catch up with our 2017 team; Nguyet Vo, Mo Doan, Tuan Le, Carl Chua and Antoine Archaimbault of Photon Racing to find out how their preparations are coming along just days before they head off to the Finals…
Team ‘Photon Racing’, what inspired your ‘F1 in Schools’ team name?
We debated over a number of team names but as a majority of the team is made up of Physics students, we mutually chose the name ‘Photon Racing’ because the speed of a photon is the speed of light. So we built upon that concept striving to achieve a design that would make our car as fast as possible.
And why did your team decide to participate in this competition?
F1 in Schools poses a unique challenge. It fascinated each of us as we all have a passion for designing, being innovative and being creative which matches the skills required for this competition. We also wanted to experience opportunities we don't normally have presented to us inside the confines of a classroom.
What’s your biggest strength as a team?
Our biggest strength is our teamwork. We were already friends before we started the competition. Two of us have been friends since kindergarten and four have been friends for the past 6 years. We all came together in a shared interest for F1 in November 2016 to form ‘Photon Racing’. The fact that we’re all friends really helps with delegating tasks and tackling challenges head on as a team whilst continually supporting one another. Our team is also unique because we all come from different cultural backgrounds which allows us to garner different ideas and experiences.
If you had to describe your team in three words what would they be?
Tell us about the design process for your car...
The design for the car body was based initially on a Maclaren model. As the F1 in Schools race track is straight unlike normal F1 circuits we made suitable modifications to the design to take advantage of this. We also endeavoured to make it look as aesthetically pleasing as possible so there were no hard edges that looked out of place. It all looked like one moulded design.
During the course of the competition the use of a Launch Energy Recovery System (LERS) was banned which meant the regulations for the height and weight of the car were also altered. This meant that we ended up with quite a few prototypes.
Did you have any major challenges throughout the process?
One major problem that arose was that our Router malfunctioned, which halted the manufacturing process of our cars. This not only wasted a lot of precious time, but it also placed a lot of pressure on the confidence of our team.
The Denford CNC machine we used for the manufacturing process was a very complex programme to understand. Luckily we had Tuan on the team who managed to figure it out and did most of the manufacturing by himself. We ruined countless of models during the process. At one point we only had a certain amount of materials left so we had to ensure every cut was precise! It took at least 5 different models to make sure that the outcome was exactly what we wanted and what we had designed. There was definitely a lot of trial and error but we see failure as the first step to success so we persevered and got there in the end!
What’s been the best moment so far?
It would definitely be seeing the time of the first test race of our prototype car and collectively realising that our dream to go to the World Final is tangible and close in our reach. It was this magic moment of everything coming together, a moment that we thought we would never be able to see.
How did you raise the funds for the World Finals?
With Photon Racing being an independent project, we are 100% funded by external sources, hence it took a lot of effort to seek potential sponsors and convince these sponsors to believe in us. In Vietnam, F1 in Schools isn’t a recognised field so we had to raise awareness of the competition as well as its link to STEAM.
We approached it by first looking at a list of sponsors’ email addresses that we collected from the school’s membership directory and we also went to our parents and asked if they had any emails of potential sponsors. From here we sent out a mass email. Most replied asking for further information on the event so we would then write to them explaining the concept behind F1 in Schools and then whoever was still interested at this point we would go to them and pitch our ideas. Thankfully we met people who understood the competition and were willing to sponsor us and support us.
We definitely built up a level of trust in Vietnam because we’re now receiving emails from potential sponsors asking if they can sponsor us rather than us having to contact them! We’re even having to turn them away and refer them to next year’s team!
Are you excited for the World Finals?
Yes! We expect the World Finals to be a fierce competition between the teams, but we also expect there to be an all around sense of camaraderie and excitement for each other. We are most looking forward to meeting people from the different teams and hearing about their stories, as well as being able to learn and exchange different methods and techniques used by teams around the world.
Do you believe Photon Racing can win the World Finals?
We believe, based on what we’ve accomplished so far we will be quite successful at the competition especially because it’s not simply about the car speed there’s also the marketing portfolio and other factors. We do know that the competition will be very tough so we will just go out there and try our best!
What advice would you give students thinking of doing F1 in Schools?
Our advice would be to prepare and start everything early. Set targets and deadlines on when to complete certain tasks so that the aim and objective remain clear. As we’re students we are often occupied with academic deadlines and as such, we think it’s important to get a head start to avoid conflict between the F1 in Schools’ timetable and other timetables. But, aside from time management, we believe it is key for students to always be open-minded to new concepts and always be ready to learn.
With the recent developments in the technology department at the school such as the new 3D printers and the makerspace, future teams taking part will be extremely lucky to be able to incorporate these into their design and manufacturing process so to anyone considering taking part in this ECA, we’d say now’s the time to do it!
How has F1 in Schools benefited you?
F1 in Schools has given us the opportunity to apply our collective passion for innovative thinking together and undertake a challenge as a team. Most of all, it provided us with a chance for personal growth and real life learning that we wouldn’t have normally in the classroom. F1 in Schools has even inspired Mo to consider studying Marketing and Design as a double degree at University!
Andrew Denford, Founder and Chairman of F1 in Schools, discusses the opportunities that can arise for the students participating in this year’s event, “The F1 in Schools STEM Challenge has inspired a passion for Engineering in generations of students, with many of our ‘alumni’ moving into careers with Formula 1 teams and companies associated with the sport. Rubbing shoulders with the team personnel at our end of event Awards Celebration Gala Dinner is a fantastic opportunity for these talented students to put themselves in pole position for making introductions with the F1 team decision-makers.”
We’d like to say a huge thank you to all of Photon Racing’s sponsors this year for their continued support and belief throughout the competition:
To keep up to date with Photon Racing whilst they’re at the World Finals, follow the team on their social media channels:
Photon Racing, we wish you the very best of luck in Malaysia and can’t wait to hear all about the event when you get back. In the meantime, here’s a little good luck video from all of us here at BIS HCMC…
Chelsea Pattison, Marketing Officer
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