The IET Formula 24 (F24) is open to the 11-16 year old age group. The racing is now made up of teams from around 500 schools with the national final this year being held in October at Goodwood.
The beauty of this race is that the rules are far more relaxed than one might normally expect, which not only encourages the teams to explore their creative and innovative ideas, but also brings a visual treat to the viewing public in that the cars are representative of a wide variety of different design concepts.
From humble backgrounds, great invention often springs and the F24 heats allow school children with an eye for mechanics and engineering, or a simple desire to create something, the opportunity to learn at a young age the various aspects of motor mechanics.
Of course, not all of these girls and boys will become Formula One pit stop mechanics and technicians, but the hands-on knowledge of creating an electric car with the goal of racing at Goodwood in a final will stand them in good stead should they want to pursue a future career in mechanics.
The role of a garage mechanic is slowly changing as the technology that makes our humble combustion engine-driven automobiles becomes ever more sophisticated. Getting a batch of young people involved from an early age is good for you and I as everyday drivers as well as those at the more cutting edge of design and racing.
You can see where the innovation must come into the equation when you hear Stuart Christy of the Greenpower Education Trust describe the basics required: a highly efficient electric vehicle that can cope with doing up to 30mph for around 4 hours.
He also points out that it’s more than a race, with portfolio and design awards available as well, thus awarding the process as well as the final results.
Being a schools based project, the pupils who get involved and work together on these electric vehicles find that their workshops are less male dominated than the adult car mechanic world tends to be, with the door equally open to the many girls that want to become part of the school design and engineering teams as well.
The pupils also get to use motor industry standard 3D software in their computer-aided designs. The use of this cutting-edge software and equipment, as well as accreditation means that pupils who get involved in IET Formula 24 have an enhanced chance of employment in the future, according to Stuart.
Because F24 is based around innovation and ideas, it stands to reason that the most expensive cars are not necessarily the outright winners of the final. With cars ranging in total cost from £1000 to around ten times that amount, the emphasis is not on wealth, but problem solving and being able to put the basic requirements into practice.
Incidentally, the winner in 2014 was a car called The Black Bullet, a creation of the Weald School team, which achieved an average of 30.2mph over a distance of 91.2 miles. The Weald School are old hands at F24, their second car, Purple Predator, came third in the same race and they have also won the competition in 2006 as well.
All in all, IET Formula 24 is a fantastic ongoing concept that is driving electric vehicle innovation forward.
Image of Black Bullet – www.theweald.org.uk
Image of Sacred Heart – www.bbc.co.uk
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