Thomas Agars lived and breathed the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge throughout the entirety of his secondary education from 2008 to 2012. Among his peers he was best known for pushing the limits within the competition, innovating, and approaching every problem with enthusiasm. In 2012 he was a member of the World Championship winning team “Cold Fusion”, whereby he expertly manufactured and raced the record setting car.
At a very young age, Thomas knew he was born to be an Engineer. Using the spare material found in his father’s shed, Thomas would construct anything and everything, using his ability to observe existing designs and recreate them. From remote controlled cars/aircraft to bridges and everything else in between. There was always an ongoing project for him to work on. Fast forward two decades and his childlike curiosity and need to learn remains one of his core qualities.
“After meeting the head technology teacher, Stephen Read, during a Brighton Secondary School open day, I was immediately drawn towards the F1 in Schools challenge. I would stay at school, alone at first, for as long as I could, teaching myself how to use CATIA V5, designing ‘My first car’. I quickly picked this up and before long I was leading the design of cars competing in the National competition. At first, it was a struggle, as the level of competition within Australia alone is phenomenal. After several years of near wins, I took away unique learning experiences each competition. Above all else this experience taught me the importance of teamwork and collaboration. I believe I can speak on behalf of all F1 in School Alumni that this learning experience isn’t easy to convey via traditional textbook teaching, however the F1 in Schools challenge nails it on the head.”
As a testimonial to Thomas’s out of the box thinking, during his final year of competition he explored new ways to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the car. One innovation was to exploit a loophole within the regulations to include an articulated nozzle towards the rear of the car to maximise forwards acceleration. At the time, this had never been seen in the competition, and improved the lap times significantly. In the following years, other teams from all around the globe successfully implemented them, synonymous to the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) technology used in real F1 cars. For several years, teams developing KERS repeatedly broke speed records, a team from Brighton Secondary School being the current World record holders.
Through his success in the F1 in Schools challenge in 2012, he was awarded a full scholarship to complete a Masters of Aeronautical Engineering at City University London. He was one of the first recipients of this scholarship to take it on, travelling halfway around the globe as a 19-year-old to setup a new life in the UK.
During his time at City, as a ‘fresher’ he was picked out by the leaders of the Formula Student team ‘City Racing’ to assist with the manufacture of the car. On top of Thomas’s talent, he has also proven to be resilient in character. To sustain the significant living costs of London, he worked night shifts at the local Pub. Later in his degree he was able to support himself by working as a research assistant within the University transonic wind tunnels.
“By far the most valuable learning experience during my studies was actually just the act of living independently abroad with all of the challenges that presented me. It provided the catalyst to which I developed my character and multi-cultural perspective on the world. Because of my time in abroad I have made friends from all over the world.”
“It was about this time, 2015-2016, that I started really taking notice of the developments made by SpaceX, successfully vertically landing their Falcon 9 rocket. I was absolutely awestruck, I knew that this is where I wanted to end up, working in the Aerospace industry. Thankfully, my trajectory within my education was nominal and on course to this goal. However, I also wanted to expand my problem-solving ability by learning essential programming skills within Python, Arduino, and MATLAB. I did this through a series of self-lead projects and implemented custom AOA sensors within my work at City University. In addition to my formal education in aeronautical disciplines I found myself absorbed in orbital mechanics and space vehicle design.”
Thomas graduated in 2018 with first-class honours, toping his class. In his final year, his exceptional design and CAD skills became very apparent when he successfully led the design of a fixed wing UAV to compete in the BMFA competition. The UAV is now on display within the aeronautical labs at City University to set a top-quality example for future students.
“For starters, the opportunity to study abroad was only possible because of my involvement with F1 in Schools. Moreover, the technical and collaborative foundation the challenge provided has shaped my development ever since.”
Since completing his tertiary studies, Thomas has spent 2 years working in the UK for a clean-tech start-up called Gyrotricity. Developing renewable and rapid electric vehicle charging technology.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have had all these opportunities, the last 2 years being no exception. I have been able to seriously expand my professional skillset at Gyrotricity. Embracing the start-up mindset, starting from nothing, building up core technology from the conceptual phase right through to manufacture and commissioning, I have been involved in all steps along the way. There is something so exciting about being dropped in the deep end and rising to the challenge.”
Thomas is now back in Australia seeking fresh opportunities in the rapidly growing Aerospace industry.
“Long-term my goal is to become an industry leading engineer in the 21st century space boom. With so many new aerospace initiatives within Australia, I am confident it is the place to be right now. I cannot wait to see what the future brings, and I hope to be a part of success I am sure Australia will experience in the Space industry.”