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by Matt Brogan

A group of 15 teenagers from Sydney, Canberra and Noosa are preparing for the trip of a lifetime, to represent their nation and compete in the world championships of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge, in England.

Up for grabs is the title of world champion, $1.5 million in university scholarships, and the crystal Bernie Ecclestone Trophy, which last resided Down Under in 2006.

The three F1 teams (Redline Racing from Canberra, Biohazard from Sydney, The Bullets from Noosa) are part of F1 in Schools, which is operated in Australia by Re-Engineering Australia Foundation.

REA is a not for profit organisation founded by Sydney engineer, Michael Myers, 10 years ago to encourage young people to consider engineering, manufacturing and technical career paths.

The students fly out for England in September and are hoping to better last year’s result where Team Australia came second and third. They will also be looking to continue the hold we have on the coveted Best Engineered Award, which has gone to Australia every year since 2004.

To date, more than 30,000 students across Australia from Year Seven are engaged each term in the program, and 100,000+ use the same technology supplied by REA for non-F1 school projects.

REA equips the students with the same 3D software (CATIA) as used by 27 of the world’s automotive manufacturers, along with Virtual Wind Tunnel software, classroom-friendly multi-axis manufacturing centres, mini smoke and wind tunnels, and a 20-metre computer timed race track.

Students must design, analyse, make, test and race a balsa wood F1 car that reaches speeds of up to 80km/h. The current speed record is 0.985 seconds set by Queensland team The Razorbacks.

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It’s not all about fast cars. Students learn project management, public speaking, marketing, preparing technical portfolios, multi-media presentations, and engaging with industry.

A few years ago the top Aussie team was invited to be a part of Scuderia Ferrari F1’s media presentation at the Australian Grand Prix.

The race track, complete with two miniature Ferrari F1 cars, was brought to the venue and Michael Schumacher raced against one of the 14-year-olds, who can claim to his friends that he beat the multi-world champion!

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