Wicklow students to head to Texas for F1 in Schools world championships

1 May 2013

Team Bardahl Racing: Patrick Flaherty, Conor Darcy, Joseph Moran and Christopher Lynch from St David's Secondary School in Greystones, Co Wicklow

A team of innovative students from St David’s Secondary School in Greystones, Co Wicklow, has scooped the national title in this year’s F1 in Schools Technology Challenge for their design of a miniature F1 car. The students will now represent Ireland in the global finals of the competition in Austin, Texas, this November.

F1 in Schools is a global education initiative to get students more interested in computing and engineering. Secondary school students are tasked with designing, building and racing miniature compressed air-powered balsa wood F1 cars. The Irish Computer Society manages the Irish side of the competition.

Yesterday, Bardahl Racing, which comprises team members Joseph Moran, Patrick Flaherty, Christopher Lynch and Conor Darcy from St David’s Secondary School in Greystones, fought off competition from 25 other finalist teams to claim the national title and trophy, plus €2,000 in prize money. The team will now represent Ireland in the 2013 world championships in Austin, Texas, this November.

According to the Irish Computer Society, 94 teams from 63 second-level schools began working on designing and engineering their F1 cars last September before they battled it out in the various qualifying stages of the competition.

Teams had to race head-to-head on a 20-metre track, while they were also judged on the quality of engineering, marketing, graphic design and sponsorship activities.

Jim Friars, CEO of the Irish Computer Society, said the standard has been very high this year.

“An incredible level of commitment and teamwork was displayed and the lengths that the teams went to in modelling and planning the cars were unprecedented,” he said.

In Ireland, the F1 in Schools challenge began as a response to skills shortages in computing and engineering, but this trend has begun to change, according to Science Foundation Ireland’s director-general Prof Mark Ferguson.

“Companies requiring science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) graduates are the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.  It is encouraging to see an increased uptake of science and technology subjects at third level in recent years, as there continues to be a strong demand for young STEM graduates in Ireland,” said Ferguson.

He said the F1 in Schools Challenge is a great way for students to develop their problem-solving and innovation skills.

As for the global finals of the F1 challenge, they will take place in Austin in November to coincide with the 2013 US Grand Prix. Bardahl Racing will hope to emulate the success of the only Irish team to ever win the F1 in Schools world finals – Koni Kats – which took home the top accolade in 2009.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic