Tumut high students were treated to a rare sight on Thursday – a Formula One racing car worth over $8 million.
The car, a 2007 McLaren MP4/21, was donated to Re-Engineering Australia (REA) by the McLaren racing team. In its former racing life it was driven by Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, and Lewis Hamilton.
Now it’s being showcased in schools across Australia by REA, to encourage kids to get into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through getting them up close and personal with an example of what can be done with that kind of expertise.
“There’s a huge push within the school to increase knowledge and interest in STEM and this is just the icing on the cake,” said Tumut High teacher and F1 for Schools leader Bill Crain.
“I think it’ll be hugely inspiring for the students, especially in terms of creating some aspirations perhaps to enter engineering careers.”
The car was on display in the morning for students to come and look at, and for them to ask questions of REA Executive Chairman Dr Michael Myers.
Dr Myers’ own engineering career has seen him work on everything from facial reconstructive surgery to America’s Cup yachts – as well as, of course, F1 racing – and he spent the afternoon with students leading workshops on his field.
“It’s to give kids a reality check on what they can do with STEM; to get them interested in design and making things, which we don’t do enough of in Australia,” he said.
“The whole idea is to break down that barrier; to communicate that this technology is not remote for them. We want them to understand that they can do this too.
“F1 is an attractor. It’s not about wanting them to get into motorsports – if they want to they can – but if we can attract them to the process then we can teach them about all the other things they can do.”
Dr Myers believes the fact that Australia is number one in the world at the F1 for Schools competition, out of 44 countries, is a testament to what our kids are capable of achieving when it comes to STEM.
“I’m really trying to give them a good understanding of the concept that Australian kids can do anything they want. We have the best kids in the world, we just need the government to understand that,” he said.
REA run the Australian arm of the Formula 1 for Schools program, which involves designing and 3D printing a miniature F1 car to race against other competitors in both public and private schools.
In last year’s competition Tumut High year eight and nine students put in a massive effort, taking out first, second, and third in NSW in the cadet division.