ABC – Tropical North
Laura Hegarty: 15th August 2013
Five kids from Mackay North State High have created a 20 centimetre pocket rocket, designed to blow away the judges at the regional F1 in school’s competition on Friday August 16.
Year 10 students Jake Saelman, Matthew Nickalls, Kyle Costigan, Hamish McDuff and Connor Quinn have joined forces as Airstream Racing to design and manufacture an F1 model car to race on a 20 metre track.
Teacher Chris Gonnella says they’ll be competing against around 20 other teams from across the region to see who has built the fastest car.
“It’s a 20 metre straight track, they fire down on an automatic system and the cars reach approximately somewhere between 80 and 90 kilometres an hour.”
The vehicles are powered by soda bulbs (small gas cylinders used to carbonate water) pierced with a needle at the starting line.
Mr Gonnella says the cars also have to withstand braking at the end.
“They make them as light as possible, 55 grams is the minimum weight so they aim for that but still make it sturdy enough to go from 85 kilometres an hour to zero.”
The model starts off as a basic sketch before it’s taken to the computer for graphic design. Then the boys have used a variety of machines including a laser cutter and a 3D printer to create their design ready for competition.
Jake Saelman, who’s in charge of the car’s design, says they started off with five prototypes before they narrowed it down to one final car.
“There were many steps to this. First we had to design it on the computer and then run it through the program to cut it out of a piece of fossil wood,” says Jake.
Then the boys turned to science and maths in order change the cars design to make it more aerodynamic. They researched and adopted Bernoulli’s Principle.
“It’s a principle regarding lift and how air flows around a wing,” explains the team’s research manager Kyle Costigan.
“Because there’s a curve there’s low pressure because the wind moves faster over the curve and on the underside it moves slower creating high pressure and because there’s high pressure on the bottom in creates lift.
“What we’ve done with that car is we’ve flipped the actual design of the wing so that the Bernoulli’s Principle acts oppositely and with both aerofoils it gives it a downward force.”
Jake says they’ve tested it out in the hall on the school track with great results.
“We got 1.055 (seconds) for over a 20 metre track, so it’s pretty fast.
“We’re trying to crack the second… that would be really good!”
While Mr Gonnella is confident the team will do well in tomorrow’s competition, he’s not sure they’ll get under a second.
“That’d be a world record!”
He says he’s pleased regardless of how they place.
“What it’s great for is getting kids engaged in science, technology, maths and engineering and it gets them to apply it into designing and manufacturing a small car, which while it isn’t something you would really do in industry, you utlise all the skills and technology that’s available to industry today.
“Our kids are now leaving school with these skills which is something as a student from way back I can’t even imagine thinking about when I was at high school
‘it’s just such an opportunity.”
If the team wins, they’ll progress to the state finals.