It has been nineteen years since the tri-colour last adorned a podium at a Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend until last Sunday at the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore saw a group of Irish students from St. Brigid’s College in Loughrea Co. Galway take second place at the Formula 1 in Schools World Finals.
Formula 1 in Schools is the largest global STEM competition for second level students with over 20 million participants across five continents. Interestingly the Irish students from team CJJ AutoVinco were the only European team to finish on the podium losing out to eventual world champions Horizon from Australia by the narrowest of point margins, with Perspective from the United States in third place.
F1 in Schools challenges students to create their own Formula 1 team, which is commissioned to design, construct and race the fastest miniature Formula 1 car of the future using the latest design and engineering software and equipment. These miniature C02 powered Formula 1 cars are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 120km/h as they speed down the 20 meter race track. As well as promoting key skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics there is a strong entrepreneurial element to the competition where acute business acumen, cutting edge marketing strategy and a flair for innovative thinking are to the fore.
CJJ AutoVinco are the Irish team of Ruth Conway (17), Seán Fahey (17), Sinéad Kennedy (17), Alannah Curley (17), Bhagya Bowatte (17) and Ciaran Connors (17) from St. Brigid’s College in Loughrea who have spent almost three years working on this project to bring it to this level on the world final stage. Over the course of the competition the students were assessed in all aspects of their project, from engineering, design, research and development and manufacturing right the way through to enterprise, marketing, business management and innovation. As well as their overall second place finish, the students were nominated for the best engineered car and enterprise awards as well as receiving the top award for sponsorship and marketing. The teams world final car was the second fastest of all the competing teams, just being pipped to the number one spot by .01 of a second. After a very successful week of competition it was not a surprise to see the Irish students feature so prominently in the final classification, although losing out on first place by just eighteen points in a one thousand point competition just showed how agonisingly close they came to being crowned world champions for 2018.
The F1 in Schools competition which is run in close affiliation with F1 Motorsport held their glittering awards extravaganza after five days of intense competition, attended by over 600 people including guest of honour, F1 CEO Chase Carey, the 50 world finals teams, teachers, dignitaries and key Formula 1 paddock personnel celebrated the achievements of the F1 in Schools World Finalists, the future Engineers and professionals of the Formula 1 industry and beyond. Prior to presenting the trophy to the World Champions Chase said, “I want to thank and congratulate tonight’s competitors, who are the most impressive group of young people that I have ever met in many years. Your energy and passion are incredible and my hope is that some of you will end up in Formula 1 at some point in the future, but what is clear is the world is yours. You are an incredibly talented group of individuals and all of you have exciting futures ahead of you. If the future of the world is based on our youth, the future of the world is in good hands. I cannot be more impressed with the geographic spread, the diversity, the number of young women that are engaging in this activity, it’s just incredible.”
The highlight of the World Finals was the opportunity afforded the top three teams to receive their World Finals trophies from F1 CEO Chase Carey and F1 Technical Director Ross Brawn on the official F1 podium at the Marina Bay Street Circuit prior to the start of the Singapore Grand Prix, marking the first time the tri-colour was seen on the podium since Heinz Harold Frentzen put Eddie Jordan’s team on the top step in 1999.
The winning teams also had extensive access to the famous F1 paddock area over the weekend where they rubbed shoulders with drivers, team principles and some of the top names in world motorsport.
It was fitting too that amongst all the F1 royalty the team met on the paddock was fellow Irishman and F1 legend Eddie Jordan who was suitably impressed by the Irish teams progress; “As a group of students these guys epitomise everything that is good about Irish people, ultra-professional and meticulous in their approach, competing with the very best in the world and not afraid to be there, but also able to deliver it in a uniquely Irish way with buckets of personality, I can see these guys running another Irish F1 team in years to come.”
With the announcement by Minister Bruton in late 2017 of Ireland’s ambition to be “the best country in Europe for STEM subjects by 2026” it is pleasing to see Irish students already performing at such a high level on the world stage, leaving traditional world leaders in STEM and Motorsport such as Germany and the United Kingdom in their wake.
Also much credit has to go to the Irish business community both at home and abroad who reached out to the students in their efforts to raise funds to get their team to the highest level in the world in a venture that the students had to totally self-finance. The CJJ AutoVinco team would like to thank their title partner for 2018, Irish American businessman and owner of CJJ Motorsport John Campion. John has been a tremendous supporter of Irish Motorsport and youth talent in particular over the last number of years with the Team Ireland scholarship programme for up and coming Irish drivers. It was also interesting to note among the teams major partners were Supermac’s, DHL Ireland, 3D Technology Ltd., Avaya, Dawnlough Precision, Logstrup Ireland, Alkermes, ALS Minerals, Galway Roscommon Education and Training Board and Kuala Lumpur based MFE Formwork.