Minister Launches New F1 in Schools Season
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F1 in Schools™ is a global competition that challenges secondary school students to design, build and race model CO2-powered Formula 1 cars of the future. Introduced to Ireland in 2005 by the Irish Computer Society, the F1 in Schools™ Challenge powered in Ireland by Honda is in response to a recognised skills shortage in the Computing field, with technology courses having experienced a significant decline in CAO applications over the past seven years.
The F1 in Schools™ Challenge has gone a long way towards correcting inaccurate perceptions of technology by creating a practical and exciting learning environment for young people to develop an informed view about careers in this sector. There is now an indication that the decline in applications has been reversed with many colleges, including Dublin City University, reporting increases in intake of 60% and more including 45 students in the new B.Sc. in Enterprise Computing degree. The Challenge is also the perfect preparation for the new t4 Technology Subjects which are now being offered at Leaving Certificate level in Irish secondary schools.
The real life Formula One car gave the students a great idea of what their own model cars could look like if they were made to the full scale. The RA108 car is a different concept to its predecessors, in terms of its aerodynamic layout and mechanical structure. The design philosophy has been developed to allow greater scope for aerodynamic packaging and exploitation, particularly to facilitate the introduction of performance upgrades through the season.
The competition’s strong emphasis on the use of technology throughout the project – from the use of Computer-Aided Design (CAD)/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software in the design and build of the cars, to PowerPoint presentations, project and financial management tools, and digital imaging – has given students a true sense of the broad range of exciting, rewarding career opportunities that computing offers. Participants appreciate how technology is essential right throughout the activities of a business and are encouraged to think of novel ways of applying the latest technologies.
Speaking at the F1 in Schools™ launch, Minister O’Keeffe highlighted the importance of promoting careers in technology and science:
"As we build the knowledge economy and produce more and more graduates in science and technology, it is vital that we produce sufficient numbers of workers with advanced technical skills. The F1 in Schools Challenge can help to encourage the uptake of the new Leaving Cert technology subjects. Already, we have reformed the Junior Certificate science curriculum, encouraging a more hands-on investigative approach, and we intend to build on these reforms into the senior cycle. My hope is that the innovative approach inherent in the F1 in Schools Challenge will further stimulate students' interest in science and technology and give them a practical insight into some of the varied and exciting career and third-level course options available in the sector."
Tom Rowan, Assistant National Coordinator with t4, the Technology Subjects Support Service, has added his support to the competition. Rowan comments:
"The integration of communication, problem solving and practical skills in the Leaving Certificate technology subjects, which lead to a sense of competence and a feeling of personal empowerment for students, is complemented by projects such as the F1 in Schools™ Challenge."
For junior cycle students the competition offers a fun and exciting introduction to many of the skills they could choose to develop at Leaving Cert level, while senior cycle students will have an opportunity to practice those skills in an integrated and challenging manner.
Jim Friars, CEO of the Irish Computer Society, explains that the initiative is unique in Ireland:
"F1 in Schools™ gives students the opportunity to actively participate in an end-to-end project that sees their ideas develop from concept, CAD, manufacturing and testing stages through to racing and judging.” Friars continues: "The competition replicates the Formula One experience by incorporating aspects of project management, communication, marketing, sponsorship and software development into the mix."
Frank Kennedy, Sales and Marketing Director of Platinum Sponsors Universal Honda, believes that, from a corporate perspective, it is very rewarding to be involved in a project that promotes learning in such a fun and relevant manner:
"Honda has always been at the forefront of technological advances and this sponsorship allows us to bring that experience to schools around Ireland."
Last year more than 120 school teams competed at regional and national finals, where they were judged on a range of criteria including speed, design, engineering quality, and the school team’s full project presentation. The 2008 Irish champions, team Koni Kats from St David’s Secondary School in Greystones, will travel to London for the World Championships, and compete against teams from all over the world, in spring 2009.