Excuse me? Formula One (F1) racing in Arizona schools? Do we really want our school kids racing cars? We do if they are involved in the program developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the world’s premier engineering society dedicated to the advancement of the mobility community to serve society. F1 in Schools is a program to excite middle and high school students about math and science and to encourage them to consider a career in science or engineering. It introduces students to the engineering process. The F1 in Schools program complements the very successful A World in Motion (AWIM) program for Kindergarten through ninth grade and the Collegiate Design Series for college students, going beyond textbook theory by designing, building and testing the performance of a real vehicle.
There’s been plenty of hand-wringing in the media about our nation’s declining aptitude for math and science. Not long ago, a study of 470,000 15-year-old international students ranked the USA 17th in science and 25th in math among the 34 top countries studied. We’re losing our edge in innovation to the countries ahead of us — Finland, Japan and Korea head the list. Can racing help turn this tide? Can we make science “cool” for the next generation?
Besides using computers to design their cars’ bodies and optimize them for aerodynamics and computer-milling, F1 teams of three to six students must develop a budget, attract sponsors, present their findings, and design a marketing display for their pit area.
The CO2 cartridge-powered cars are tested using wind and smoke tunnel equipment to fine tune designs to optimize speed and drag co-efficiency. During the race, teams are judged on car speed as well as supporting evidence of their design in portfolios. Each team’s presentation and marketing display in “the pits” are also factored into their performance. The race cars are roughly the size of a Pinewood Derby car and they race on a level 65-foot-long track, powered by a standard CO2 cartridge that gets pierced by the starting device. Eyelets under the car follow a tether, so aerodynamic down force is not required to keep the car on the track and neutral lift reduces friction drag.
Headed up by the Rotary Club of Sun Lakes, F1 in Schools came to Arizona this fall at Chandler’s Hamilton High School as a pilot program for all the Chandler Unified School District high schools. The goal is to have Hamilton High School compete in regional and national competition events during the 2014-2015 school year and then expand the program to more high schools during the following school year.
For general information about the F1 in Schools program, go to www.f1inschools.sae.org. For information about F1 programs in Arizona, contact Rotarian Don Robins at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248-807-3604.