Michelle Lennon is one of two girls who formed the team “Cold Fusion” which became World Champions of the global F1inSchools Technology Challenge in 2012.
The scene was the Formula One racing circuit at Abu Dhabi. The students, from Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide, totally dominated their competition.
Not only did they come first outright they also won the highly coveted Best Engineered Car Award, won the Knockout Championship (elimination round), won The Ashes Race against England’s best team, and had the fastest car with a scorching track time of 1.045 seconds.
After leaving school Michelle went to the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. She is currently in her third year of mechanical engineering on the Defence Civilian Undergraduate Scholarship and is also working as a high school tutor.
“When I began the F1inSchools program I was in year 9 and had no idea on what I wanted to do post finishing school. My involvement in F1inSchools introduced me to engineering. Even though my Dad and Grandad are engineers I had never understood what is involved, and the program showed me my interest in engineering. Its more than likely the reason why I am now studying Engineering.”
“I learnt a lot about working in a team over the two teams I was in. The first team was more of a challenge. The second team I was in worked really well. We ended up becoming friends and working on the project as well as working out how to be an effective team. I also learnt a lot through applying the principles we were learning at school. A lot of the testing and analysis I did taught me about designing and conducting experiments especially with controlling variables and statistics when comparing the results gathered.”
Michelle said the manner of learning in the REA Foundation-managed program is superior to conventional textbooks-only education,
“I do believe that hands-on and student-led learning is more effective – when the students are interested in what they are doing. I have seen this through F1 in Schools over a few years at Brighton, along with extra-curricular programs I have been involved in at Uni. Through being involved in Formula SAE I have learnt more than I would have already through investigating areas of Motorsport such as vehicle dynamics. Specific to F1inSchools I was able to incorporate the mathematics I was learning including statistics on the data from different tests I had run. Additionally, the experience gained from designing experiments, controlling variables and building testing rigs was invaluable to assist in understanding key principles of physics.”
Having learnt so much through the unique F1 design-appraise-make-test-race program, Michelle has remained involved with more recent teams,
“I assisted with the 2014 national competition in Canberra. I was a judge at the 2015 competition at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne, and I have been involved in mentoring teams from my school since I finished in the competition.”
Michelle said F1 in Schools made a big impact in helping her to decide on her long-term career path.
“If I hadn’t been introduced to the program I would probably have followed science or maybe engineering but it would have made the decision on what to do at University a lot more difficult.”
“In the future I would like to work in the automotive industry, however the program I am on also leads to a career as an engineer within Defence as an APS worker.”