Attracting young people to manufacturing and engineering professions is increasingly difficult because of perceptions that the industry is unglamorous and requires strong academic skills. Many countries are having difficulty finding candidates for positions. Educational institutions are providing about a third of the qualified candidates required annually in industry. Getting youth to experience the challenge and excitement of such careers is a key issue.
In the United Kingdom, a competition was introduced to address this issue. The Jaguar F1 Team in Schools CAD/CAM Challenge, launched in November 2000, was introduced in the United States in June 2003.
The F1 Challenge introduces youth to engineering by offering them a chance to design a futuristic F1 car using computer-aided design and manufacturing. In the United Kingdom, the Challenge has attracted more than 500 teams, with four or more students on a team. A third of the students are female. They range in age from 12 to 18 years old.
Jaguar agreed to sponsor the competition for 4 years. Additional sponsorship came from BAE Systems, Denford and Pitsco. Schools register for the program and put together teams that produce technical drawings of their car designs and then convert them to a 3D solid model using the SolidEdge CAD software package from EDS. The teams then use EdgeCAM from Pathtrace to apply tool paths to their solid models and then produce their cars on Denford’s CNC Microrouter. Once the cars are produced, students test them in Pitsco’s wind and smoke tunnels. A virtual wind tunnel, on Denford’s Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, adds more detailed math and science analysis to the process.
SolidEdge CAD software and EdgeCAM CAM software are supplied in exchange for a small team registration fee. This provides free software to schools that compete.
The competition has strict requirements governing length, wheel diameter and weight of cars; there are 15 technical rules. The competition also requires students to present a formal PowerPoint presentation to a team of technical judges describing their engineering strategy and justifying their design rationale. Three age categories each have their own awards, which include “best engineering” and “best presentation.”
The cars are powered by 8-oz CO2 cylinders. Teams are judged on track speed, safety, aerodynamics, engineering quality, accuracy of manufacture and presentation.
Participating students will enter regional finals around the country to qualify for the annual national event held in June at the Technology Student Association (TSA) National Competition. The winning team from the United States will compete in the annual international finals in London, England, in January. F1 In Schools and TSA are working together to promote and conduct the competitions in the United States.
The competition has gained international media attention. It has raised the profile of engineering and boosted public awareness of students’ talents. Prime Minister Tony Blair attended a regional final at Selly Park Technology College in Birmingham, United Kingdom. “Engineering is about people doing highly skilled work, and it is important to introduce this reality of industry into the classroom,” Mr. Blair said. “This is why I am delighted to support the F1 Team In Schools Challenge to encourage many more young people into the engineering profession.”
For more information about the Challenge, visit www.f1inschools.us.