MANATEE COUNTY — These miniature Formula One cars may look like children’s playthings.
They may roll just like a Hot Wheel and entice a younger sibling’s clumsy hand just like something from a toy store.
But pop the hood, and it becomes startlingly clear: These cars are anything but juvenile.
The cars are award-winning designs competing in the F1 in Schools program, an international competition that encourages middle and high school students to use computer design software to build and manufacture CO2-powered balsa wood F1 racers. The cars required countless hours of design, tests and revisions and can zip down a 20-meter track in just more than one second.
And, in the case of eight local students, they can take their designers across the world.
Five students from Southeast High School and three from Braden River High School will be competing in the F1 in Schools World Championships Sept. 17-25 at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre in Singapore, where they will join more than 100 students from 31 countries.
The Southeast students are teaming up with the 2009 F1 in Schools national champions from James Madison Middle School in Roanoke, Va., while the Braden River students have partnered with Heinrich-Heieine-Gymnasium from Munich, Germany.
In addition to designing cars, the teams must design a portfolio and display and also present a verbal presentation.
But for all students involved, the most exciting part of the competition is on the racetrack. Mere hundredths of a second can separate first and last place, which is why the students are spending nearly every waking moment poring over every last millimeter of their vehicles. Using computer design software and a plethora of physics and aerodynamics knowledge, they tweak and re-tweak their designs to trim that 20-meter time as much as possible.
“I’ve always like engineering,” said Mark Nanney, Southeast’s manufacturing engineer. “It just fit me, and I definitely knew I wanted to do this (car engineering) since I was in middle school.”
Braden River’s team, including Ahmed Hares, Brandon Demers and Jeremy Patty, traveled recently to Germany to meet and work with their teammates. The East County students are responsible for designing and building the car, while their European counterparts are handling the marketing and portfolio materials.
Hares, now a mechanical engineering major at the University of South Florida, said he is excited to be a part of the F1 in Schools World Championships but knows there’s much work to be done to be ready for the world’s stage. A countdown ticks the days, hours and seconds until the competition on the team’s website.
“We completed our final design yesterday,” Hares said. “Now we’re on to manufacturing — and we have 42 days, 22 hours left.”
Contact Michael Eng at email@example.com.
SOUTHEAST HIGH TEAM OCR
• Brandon Miranda, design engineer, Southeast Mark Nanney, manufacturing engineer, Florida Institute of Technology
• Tony Griffin, graphic designer, Southeast Amanda Clark, team manager, Southeast Yatrik Solanki, resource manager, Southeast
• Nieman Pest, design engineer, James Madison Middle School, Roanoke, Va.
• Margi Nanney and Chris Morris, advisers
Sponsors: Lockheed Martin, Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Manatee ACT Department, Manatee Education Foundation, Rapid Prototyping Services, Bay Tool, Trimbach Artistry, Tri-H Metals, JBTN Plastics, Signs by Tomorrow
BRHS BAYWA F1-TEAM
• Ahmed Hares, design engineer, University of South Florida
• Brandon Demers, design engineer, Braden River
• Jeremy Petty, graphic designer, Braden River High
• Daisuke Spielvogel, team manager, Germany
• Adrian Candussio, resource manager, Germany
• Nicolas Beneš, manufacturing engineer, Germany
• Richard Platt and M. West, advisers
Sponsors: BayWa AG, Manatee ACT Department, Sun Hydraulics, Emerald Isle, Microsoft, Hyperschall- und Strömungstechnik, Eurocopter, Sona, Tente and Optronis