F1 in Schools draws would-be racers to UAE

Just under three dozen teams, from 25 countries, will take part in the three-day event.

BlackBird X’s Sreekanth Mohankumar applies the finishing touches during the F1 in School world finals.
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Their eyes fixed on the start line, their breath hushed, the crowd watched as the cars waited.

The little model racers roared off in a blast of smoke and a little more than a second later the race was over - but only for the day.

More than 100 youngsters from 25 countries are in Abu Dhabi for the three-day world finals of F1 in Schools, which began yesterday.

Each team, of three to six pupils, has to design and create a small but speedy car to a set of strict guidelines, find sponsors, create a brand and market their product.

The contest aims to boost children's interest in science, technology, engineering and maths.

But pupils also learn skills that will help them in their careers, said Bhavika Devnani, 17, whose team BlackBird X represents the UAE.

"This is an event in which you design a car and you race it," Bhavika said. "But there is a lot more to it - we need sponsorship, you have to market your team, you have to do a lot of designing."

Teams are judged on their car's design, how well they market themselves and their ability to work in a team. Pupils must also deliver a 10-minute presentation.

"It brings so much more to the project - life skills, creativity, teamwork, sportsmanship and entrepreneurship," said Andrew Denford, the founder and chairman of F1 in Schools. "They enjoy it, they see it as a fantastic opportunity for them to develop many skills."

Also representing the UAE is Safire Racing, from Dubai's German International School and the current UAE national champions. A third team, Synergy, has UAE and German students.

"We call our car 'completely crazy' because all the innovations are really, really great," said Safire Racing's Christopher Land.

BlackBird X lost to a British team yesterday but hope to make it to the knockout stage tomorrow.