My Journey with F1 in Schools

F1 in Schools

Have you ever watched Formula One racing and wondered how the cars are designed to be so fast and yet not take off? F1 in Schools is a fantastic STEM project aimed at giving school students the opportunity to design their own F1 car – in miniature, but still impressively fast! If are a frequent viewer of Formula One and other car racing events, then you will know how exhilarating it is to see these feats of engineering run at such amazing speed. Look at this link for example:

On the 14th February, I competed in the Regional Finals for my F1 in Schools team, EMERUS. We came 1st place in the development class, and are through to the National Finals, the first time for a team from my school, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys. On the day of the regionals, we were awake from 4:00, returning home at 20:00. In this article, I will explain what F1 in Schools is, what we did as a team, and why I enjoy being a part of it. I hope that you might want to get involved too! Testing it on various programs (eg. Autodesk Flow Design),

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What is it?

F1 in Schools is an organization founded by Andrew Denford who is renowned for being the CEO of Denford Ltd. This is a company that builds both school and professional-standard D&T equipment and machinery.

The first tasks our team had to do were:

  • Designing our car on CAD (Computer Aided Design),
  • Building it using CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture) and by hand,
  • Redesigning and tuning the car after imperfections are found,
  • Writing the Design Portfolio explaining every choice in the design of the car and the reasoning behind it,
  • Racing the car both at school in preparation, and in the finals.

Those are the main aspects in regards to the design of the car, but another equally important part of the competition is the enterprise side. Here, our goals were:

  • Securing support for our team by means of finding sponsorship
  • Contacting the sponsors regularly and keeping them close
  • Writing the Enterprise Portfolio explaining all of our decisions regarding writing to sponsors, publicising your team, applying a unique selling point and ethos, etc.
  • Designing, Ordering or Making merchandise for the pit display(an exhibition stand).

The structure of F1 in Schools

There are 3 classes; Entry, Development and Professional.

Entry class is for people new to F1 in schools, and you can only compete here once. The parameters for the design of the car are very strict, meaning that there is more guidance, and the expectations are lower. One Entry class team from every region gets the opportunity to go on to the national finals but as visitors, not competitors. ‘Corpus’, this year\’s Entry class team from my school also won the regional finals, so they are coming to visit the nationals as VIP guests. After Entry class comes Development class!

In Development class, the parameters for the car are less strict, giving the designers more freedom over the car. To add to the challenge, each team must produce 2 portfolios, one on the design, and one on the enterprise aspects. Similar to Entry class, you can only compete once in Development class before going through to Professional class.

Here, there are even fewer rules on how the car must look and whether they should have certain components or not. Also, you are expected to have lots of sponsorship, normally between £5k and £20k, but sometimes even up to £100k! The competition here is very difficult, with the option to now write two 10-page portfolios, rather than the two 5-page ones in Development class, and the one 5-page one needed in Entry class.

The engineering behind the cars

When our school decided to join the F1 in Schools franchise, we had to raise over £22,000 through sponsorships, (more on this later) to pay for our own track, a new cnc milling china router, and more! We also bought extra F1 in Schools blocks and new PLA (poly lactic acid, which is a starch based material with which components can be 3D printed sustainably). The CNC router and the 3D printer were our main types of CAM. The CNC router (Computer Numerically Controlled Router) is a machine that mills out the car from one of these blocks, and all one needs to do is send the CAD file to it, attach the correct drill bit, and put the block in the machine from which the car will be milled. Photo 8 shows the block upside down with the groove running across the top – that would go at the bottom usually, but it is where the tether hooks and the tether itself would go. The hole on the right side is where the CO2 would go. When designing the car, we had a very strict set of rules explaining the parameters. Some of these are:

  • Size measurements
  • The ‘No-Go-Zone’
  • F1 in Schools supplied consumables
  • Other components

The ‘No-Go-Zone’ is the area into which the design must not cut. This contains the area where the canister and tether wire ridge is, and a basic shape from which the car can be designed.. The minimum length is the length of the No-Go-Zone, and the maximum is 40mm longer: the length of the block itself. Standard wheels and axles are also needed, but in Professional class you are free to source your own in order to reduce drag. Other necessary components include a front and rear wing and side pods, one of which goes between the front and rear wheels, and the other goes behind the rear wheels. If you fail to comply with these regulations, you cannot win any of the prizes. We designed the car in a way to find the perfect balance between lightness and stability. We needed to have a car which produced enough downforce to keep it on the track, but not an excessive amount, which could mean that the car creates more drag, slowing it down. We had various test cars on which we produced vast amounts of data about what the best wheelbase lengths are, what the most effective wing angle is, and how spaced apart the wheels should be, just to name a few. In the virtual wind tunnel, we soon discovered that having a smooth front end makes the car more slippery through the air, making it faster, whereas a sharp and spiky nose would part the air around the front of the car in a much more chaotic manner.

Who is our team and what did we do?

Team Emerus is unique. We are a young team, in the years 8 and 9, who have a shared passion for helping the environment – both personally, and publicly. This may seem unexpected, given that this program reflects the automotive industry in microcosm, an industry not historically renowned for its commitment to the environment. There is a limit to what we can do here, because we have to mill the car out of plastic, and they are powered by a compressed CO2 canister. What we did do, however, was to take the environmentally-conscious option wherever we could. Our priority is making the right choices to publicise our team, and in doing so,, publicising the climate crisis. We knew that we had to create a different team to the rest, and we achieved that with our environmental consciousness.

We then decided that a big focus for us and our branding would be to create an eco-friendly team. We also knew that this would be difficult, so we had to ask many people for advice. We sourced local sponsors, and once we had raised enough money, we were able to spend more on eco-friendly merchandise. This includes biodegradable pens, keyrings made of recycled offcuts of wood and banana leaf bowls. This was not done by any of the teams last year, and with the rising climate crisis issue, we knew that this would be vital to our success.

As the Sponsorship and Enterprise Manager, I made sure that one of the first steps we took was to find sponsorship. This was a good opportunity to find parameters for our ethos, as some of the sponsors wanted certain designs, colours and fonts that reflected their business, for ROI (Return On Investment). Return on Investment is what a company can expect to gain from sponsoring something. It could be publicity, customers or even just increasing their engagement. Altogether, in the regionals, we raised £600 and spent £345 of it.

Team EMERUS will now go on to compete in the national finals, and if we come 1st place in the country, we will have the opportunity to go on to compete in the world finals! For the nationals, my team calculated that we would need to raise over £2000 to pay for accommodation, an improved pit display, our entrance fee and consumables for our car manufacture – all whilst remaining true to our ecological mindset – no easy feat.

We hope to do some carbon offsetting and we are currently considering a living wall or a tree planting scheme.

Why do I enjoy it and why should you get involved?

There are very few STEM projects that are aimed at KS3, let alone an international one! For a lot of people, the only STEM or DT work is in fortnightly or weekly lessons. Luckily, my school has a large design department. I am very interested in engineering and passionate about spreading information about F1 in Schools, so that more schools get involved, and any budding designers out there get the chance to take part in an international and challenging project. I get to work with my friends, spend lots of time working on something that I love to do, and get the rewards from it.

The F1 in Schools franchise has embedded so many passions and skills in me and my team, so if you are looking for a starting point for your design and technology, there is no better place. Working with thousands of people from across the globe, all of whom are spurring you on and supporting you, has been phenomenal, and a great way to improve my design and enterprise skills.

Figure references:

  1. EMERUS Team Logo
  2. Our Car for the Regionals
  3. Meeting with a sponsor
  4. F1 in Schools Wheel
  5. EMERUS regionals merchandise


Wilf is a Year 8 student at Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury.  His passions are music, design and the environment. Wilf\’s career ambitions are in engineering, possibly design or aeronautical.

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