TWO teams from St Flannan’s College, Ennis have qualified for the regional finals of the F1 in Schools Formula 1 Technology Challenge.
This is the second year in-a-row that the St Flannan’s Science Club has participated in the competition. Last year, the school’s junior team, Fire Dragons made it to the Irish finals, which were held in Dublin in April.
The regional finals, at which both of the St Flannan’s teams will compete, will be held in Limerick in March.
The junior team, called Flannan’s Falcons, consists of three first-year pupils, Mike O’Dea, Oakleigh Weekes and Victor O’Loughlin, one second year, Jack O’Dea, and two third years, Hannah O’Connell and Chloe Hayes. This is the second year Jack O’Dea has been in the competition, making it to the finals in March.
The senior team is called Slipstream and is made up of all fourth-year pupils. The team members are Cian O’Shea, Lorcan O’Donoghue, Christopher Ogbonna, Mataka Flynn and Mubarak Busari. Christopher was also a member of Fire Dragons last year.
Head of the St Flannan’s Science Club, science teacher, Michael Horgan explained the F1 in Schools is a global multi-disciplinary competition that challenges secondary school pupils to design, build and race miniature compressed-air powered balsa wood Formula One cars.
“The competition 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,” Mr Horgan commented.
The work for the competition is being done as an afterschool project, with the help of Flannan’s Science Club and Mr Horgan.
Cian, team manager of Slipstream F1, said all of their team members were involved in the project last year.
“We began work on this project nearly the first day we came back to school in September and since then, it’s been flat out work. We currently have our whole idea and concept on all aspects of the project covered and now it’s simply a question of implementing these ideas and concepts. Our car is designed. However, it’s being tested furiously by our designers through computer flow dynamics programs,” he explained.
“The car is in resemblance to modern Formula 1 cars and includes front and rear wings, sidepods and nose cones. Our design is very simple and it should be fast. We are using many different skills for the project, from scientific skills to art and design. We also use Solidworks computer software and many more throughout the project. We all have computers so it makes it easier to communicate our ideas. This is a very fun and beneficial project to be involved in because it doesn’t just show us engineering and design. It also teaches us about the importance of team work to succeed,” Cian added.
He said all of the team are interested in technology and engineering and he thinks most of them would like to pursue a career in it.
Cian said he is very interested in Formula 1 and motor racing, as he grew up watching it.
“It became my favourite sport. It isn’t very popular in Ireland so it’s hard to find people with that interest but the F1 in Schools project put all five who were interested together. So we are united in our love for the sport.”
He said the next stage is to secure sponsorship and funding so they can continue their challenge in the competition.
Twelve-year-old Mike is the manager of the junior team, Flannan’s Falcons. Second-year pupil Jack is the team’s finance manager, Oakleigh is the logo designer, Victor is resources manager, while Chloe and Hannah are in charge of fundraising.
“Jack was resources manager for Fire Dragons last year and was involved in setting up the website. Chloe and Hannah were also involved in the JICU Space Project, which brought them to Chicago last year,” Mike said.
Flannan’s Falcons began work on their Formula 1 project in September.
“The car design is almost complete using Solidworks. We submitted the five-page proposal in November and were told on December 1 that we were through to the regional finals in March to be held in UL. We received the block of balsa wood this week and it will be brought to UL to be cut using their state-of-the-art technology and we will then need to sand and paint the car,” he explained.
Mike said the car is light, weighing less than 50 grams. “This means it should be propelled faster as weight is a key factor in weighing down the car. Through this project, I have learned to use CAD (computer aided design) and this will be of great benefit, I hope, in my tech graph studies. It has been brilliant learning to use the equipment and it is unusual for first years to use CAD,” he added.
“The model will be made of balsa wood, which is very light and we use airfoil wings to produce down force and enhance adhesion to the track. We will use one-coat polymer paint in pale blue. The use of the CAD system involved downloading the basic block from the internet under licence then designing all aspects of the car in terms of shape, weight and size. We tried various techniques and styles to give us a truly unique car,” Mike explained.
He also feels the F1 project is a brilliant challenge to be involved in.
“We all like science and are enjoying working as a team. It is unusual for three different class years to collaborate in a project but we are learning to work and achieve results. Most of us would like a career involving engineering or science. I would like to become an engineer like my father. Jack wants to be a computer programmer and Victor plans to become a geologist. Jack is also very interested in cars and is a particular fan of all James Bond cars and he watches F1 races.
“We all support various F1 teams so there is competition between us. We all also enjoy Top Gear and would love to go to a Grand Prix,” he said.
Mike added that the next stage of the project is to get the car cut in Limerick, finalise the gear and get the website up and running. The team’s main sponsor to date is the St Francis’ Credit Union and now that they are through to the regional finals, they hope to get involved in more organised fundraising.