I have the great privilege of being a judge for the F1 in Schools Challenge for the Regional and National Finals.

This week, I’ll be working at the Regional Finals at Linlithgow Academy in West Lothian.

Spanning age ranges of 9 to 19, the main objective of the competition is to help change the perceptions of science, technology, engineering and maths by creating a fun and exciting learning environment for young people to develop an informed view about careers in engineering, Formula 1, science, marketing and technology. 

If you think this is just about school kids having a bit of fun, think again! This is serious stuff!

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.

Teams of students must deploy CAD/CAM software to collaborate, design, analyse, manufacture, test, and then race miniature compressed air powered cars made from an official F1 model block. They also have to raise sponsorship and manage budgets to fund research, travel and accommodation.

What’s it all about?

  1. Design – using 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, design an F1 car of the future to the specifications set by the International Rules Committee just like in Formula 1.
  2. Analyse – aerodynamics are analysed for drag coefficiency in a virtual wind tunnel using Computational Fluid Dynamics Software (CFD).
  3. Make – using 3D CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) software, the team evaluates the most efficient machining strategy to make the car.  
  4. Test – aerodynamics are tested in wind and smoke tunnels.

Then it’s time to start preparing to compete:

  1. Pit Display – put together an informative display showing their work through all stages of the project.  Think about their team identity.
  2. Scrutineering – cars are submitted to Parc Ferme where the judges scrutinize every dimension to check they comply with the Rules and Regulations. 
  3. Engineering Judging – judges question teams on how their cars has been manufactured and why particular designs were chosen.
  4. Verbal Presentation – the teams present a rehearsed presentation to a panel of judges covering all aspects of the challenge, within a set time limit.
  5. Portfolio Judging – teams create a detailed portfolio focussing on the Design and Engineering or their car, along with their Enterprise activities.
  6. Race – the moment of truth. Experience the thrill of watching the cars powering down the F1 in Schools racetrack at speeds of up to 75kph. 

I was judging the Enterprise Portfolio for the Secondary Schools Professional Class at the National Finals in Leeds earlier this year. This covered Scoping and Project schedule; Roles and Responsibilities; Budget and Risk Management; Communication, Monitoring and Controlling; Marketing and Sponsorship; Digital Media; and the Portfolio Document Presentation.

The talent from the students in the teams I was judging was insane! I was hugely impressed with their teamwork and grasp of the wide range of skills required for the competition – and in due course, for the workplace. It was a *really* difficult job narrowing down the finalists to go on to the World championship in Singapore in September (it coincided with the Formula 1 Grand Prix).

This process is repeated around the world in over 40 countries where National Champions from every country are invited to compete at the World Finals where they will go head to head to become the F1 in Schools World Champions and lift the F1 in Schools World Champions trophy.

The Regional Finals run from now until March 2024, with the National Final due to be held in late April 2024.

About the author

Avatar photo

Jon Bolton

Jon is our Regional Training Coordinator, and also our Communications and Publicity Manager.
He went on his first rally at the age of 5 when his uncle was marshalling the Cropton Forest stage on the Lombard RAC Rally. That was in the days of Roger Clark and the all-conquering Escorts. The sounds and smells of rally cars have never lost their appeal. As an adult, working on an ambulance crew covering Cadwell Park in the mid 90s, he frequently encountered drivers who had come to an abrupt stop somewhat sooner than they had anticipated. Jon is a licensed rescue team member and Motorsport UK Trainer. He sits on Motorsport UK's Training Working Group and their Rescue and Recovery Working Group, as well as being a member of Motorsport UK's national training team for Safeguarding.

He is a STEM Ambassador and a Scottish Regional and UK National Judge for F1 in Schools, a not-for-profit social enterprise aiming to change the perception of STEM-related subjects through global competition.