Australian Teacher Magazine

By Jo Earp

A1 Racing Teacher Magazine

AUSTRALIAN schools are leading the pack when it comes to the F1 in Schools challenge, racing to a third world championship in a row.

The A1 Racing team took the honours at the world finals in Austin, Texas thanks to a collaborative effort involving students from Pine Rivers State High School, Queensland, and Phoenix P-12 Community College in Victoria.

As well as testing the speed and reaction times of their scale models over 20 metres, competitors also have to prepare a verbal presentation, portfolio and pit display.

Teacher Corey Gieskens coordinates the F1 in Schools program at Pine Rivers and the finals of the competition in his region.

Precision cutting machinery, a custom-built wind tunnel and industry standard design software are just some of the tech tools available to Gieskens and his students.

“We’re very lucky, we’ve got a lot of good industry contacts now,” the educator says.

“We have a CNC machine here (a computer numerical control milling machine that cuts raw material with precision). It’s six years old and sometimes it plays up, but that’s no different to industry.

“Probably the biggest difference between us and industry is that when our machine plays up it’s us as teachers that have to stay back and fix it and work it out … and it’s only fixed as fast as we can get to it, juggling all of our other activities.”

The students also use a state-of-the-art CAD (computer aided design) program called CATIA. “That’s the sort of program that Boeing uses to draw its planes,” Gieskens points out.

One gadget just starting to make a real impact in primary and secondary education is the 3D printer, but it’s a piece of technology that’s been part of the F1 set up at Pine Rivers State High School for the last three years.

“And, we’ve got a few other bits and pieces. When you get a hub (we’re a hub school) you’ve got all of the parts …,” Gieskens says.

“We have a 25 metre race track and also a smoke tunnel [which are pretty standard], but for our wind tunnel we’ve worked with a chief design engineer from Triple Eight Racing, which is the Red Bull racing team.”

It’s an impressive array of equipment that’s opening up career pathways for students and helping Australian schools stay ahead of the competition.