Tumut High School students have taken out first, second, and third place at the F1 for Schools state competition at the University of Western Sydney.
All entries in the ‘cadet’ division, the winning team consisted of Corey Crain and Jamie O’Brien, with Ethan Contessa and Bronson Sutton coming second, and Jeremy Hannah and William Hassett placing third, against entries from both public and private schools in Sydney and wider NSW.
F1 for Schools is the largest extracurricular schooling competition in the world. It requires entrants to form teams to design a miniature F1 car and print them using a CNC machine, a technique similar to 3D Printing.
The Tumut High year eight and nine teams clocked in plenty of hours working on their cars, going to school during the holidays and staying as late as 9pm during the term to perfect the finishing touches.
As with a professional engineering project, the cars must be built to exact specifications. “One of the reasons our teams were so successful I think was because of our attention to the rules and regulations. That’s worth a lot of marks,” said Mr Crain.
“You can add three to eight grams just from the paint, which was a hard lesson for us to learn,” he said. “We had them all done, painted them on the Monday, and they were all over [the ideal weight]. We then had to remachine all the cars up, and the night before the boys had to repaint all the cars.”
“We were at Maccas on the way to Sydney, and here’s Jeremy putting his wheels and axles onto to his car on the table!” said student Jamie O’Brien.
“Corey was even drying their car out in the oven to reduce the moisture content so it wouldn’t affect the weight,” Mr Crain added.
He said the team’s performance was an indication of the boys’ potential.
“These are leaders of the future if you ask me,” he said. “[The competition] nails STEM perfectly – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – everything is in that car. So when these guys are first, second, and third in the state, you’re really saying that they’re first, second, and third in STEM in the state,” he said.
“The amount of energy and expertise that these guys, from a small rural school, have shown, and beaten the rest of the state – Tumut can produce engineers and highly skilled people for the future, and this is an example of what our school is producing.
“You don’t get first, second, and third just by luck. You have to really work for it, and they worked for it.”
The competition took place over two days, and the Tumut High teams were sponsored by VISY and the Adelong Sporting Foundation to enable them to get to and stay in Sydney.
They also won the prizes for ‘Best Poster’, which explained their process making the cars, and ‘Grand Prix’, which goes to the fastest car. (The overall prize is a combination of fastest lap time, poster, and car design fitting the specifications.)
The Tumut High students won’t continue on to the national and world finals, as they competed in the cadet division due to their age and the fact that this was the first time the school had competed.
However, the winning car will be displayed at the national finals, and they plan on entering the higher level ‘development’ and ‘professional’ competitions as they progress through their schooling.
“We’re planning on sending two professional teams next year,” said student Bronson Sutton.
Tumut High’s participation in the F1 for Schools competition was enabled by their Gonski funding, a school funding model that allocates money to public schools based on equity.
“It gives the opportunity for kids to be involved in this sort of high end stuff, it gives them the opportunity to extend themselves,” said Tumut High Principal Don Dixon.
“The routers, the 3D printers, all that sort of stuff, no way would the school be able to afford that if we didn’t have that increase in funding from Gonski.
“We did take a bit of a gamble, in terms of saying should we invest in this – but then you’ve got the kids wanting to stay until eight o clock at night, igniting that passion. So hopefully this is a reflection of how the school is spending that funding to benefit all of our diverse kids.”
However, he said that 3D Printers and CNC technology aside, the teams’ success also came down to good old-fashioned great teaching.
“Bill’s very passionate about it, and then that flows on and the kids become passionate about it too,” Mr Dickson said.
F1 for Schools is an international competition spanning 40 countries and 20 million students.
The students design the cars using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and input their designs into a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. A CNC lathe and router then creates the cars out of a block of balsa, according to the specification the kids have developed. It’s a process similar to 3D Printing, with the difference being that 3D printers add material to create a finish product, whereas CNC machines start with a block of solid material and cut away to achieve an end result.