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OCTOBER 24, 2005

Radical thinking from schools

The demand for automotive engineers in Britain, particularly in motor racing, has led to a number of schemes to encourage youngsters to get into racing engineering. These include F1 in Schools, which runs a competition for secondary schools to design and manufacture model racing cars, using CAD-CAM technology. This has recently gained support from F1's Bernie Ecclestone.

There is also a competition run by Greenpower, which aims to get youngsters to consider careers in engineering and technology using electric vehicles. There are various formulae for different age groups but the high point of the year is a six-hour race at Goodwood racing circuit where teams have to run as far as possible using a 24-volt, 240 watt DC electric motor (designed for use on motorised wheelchairs) that runs at 2000 rpm and four 12-volt batteries. The race, which had to be stopped for 30 minutes because of bad weather, resulted in Furze Platt School's Turbo Tortoise covering 182 miles. The school's sister car Super Snail finished second with Chatham House Grammar School's Aluuuuuminium in third place. There were 77 entries and 58 of them managed to get the cars to travel over 100 miles.

The first competition in 1999 saw the cars covering 85 miles, that went up to 118 in 2000, 158 in 2001, 170 in 2004 and 182 this year. The greatest distance achieved this year was in the Race of Champion earlier in the year when Turbo Tortoise achieved 201 miles in six hours.