Aramco hosts future Saudi talent at the Kingdom’s first F1® in Schools National Finals
Shaheen team of four girls and two boys to advance to World Finals in Singapore.
A team of six Dhahran high school students took the checkered flag to win the first Saudi Arabian F1® in Schools National Finals at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), winning one of three places to represent their nation at the Aramco-sponsored F1® in Schools World Finals in Singapore in September.
The Shaheen team of four girls and two boys defeated 15 other teams, with second place going to Oryx from Dhahran and third to Abiyya from Riyadh.
They won their tickets to Singapore by manufacturing and racing an F1®-based model car and impressing an international panel of judges after a five-month program of engineering development, project management, and team building.
We count a lot on the sons and daughters of the Kingdom to continue to excel, from designing, manufacturing, marketing, and driving cars on Ithra’s Circuit, and to lead the future of passion and creativity in the Kingdom and the world.
— Abdullah K. Al-Rashed, Ithra director
“The F1® in Schools program is a global educational initiative by Formula One. It brings the sport into the classroom, delivering exciting STEM learning opportunities and inspiring the next generation to embrace careers in these fields,” said Maha N. Abdulhadi, F1® in Schools champion at Ithra.
“We want to empower and we want to showcase that we have talented local students that can compete in the world.”
Aramco’s global sponsorship of F1® in Schools and F1® aligns with its desire to accelerate the fuels of the future. Auto racing allows Aramco to showcase its innovation in fuel performance and commitment to cleaner transport technology.
‘The sky’s the limit’
F1® in Schools founder and chairman Andrew Denford was blown away by the enthusiasm and excitement on show.
“I don’t know how you get bigger than this. We’d love to stage the World Finals in Saudi Arabia. We always do it next to a Grand Prix. We could host it here, take the students up to Jiddah for the race weekend. The sky’s the limit really. It’s going to explode across the nation,” he said.
Aramco’s innovative support had, in his view, pushed the students’ abilities to global levels.
“Aramco has a fresh approach to how to deliver this within a country: getting universities to help the students to get the cars designed and made to the standard they have here. I think Aramco has shown that they are keen to support, develop, and build their communities so they have a steady flow of students coming through,” he said.
The international judges were similarly impressed by enthusiasm and ingenuity of the Saudi students.
“You can feel their excitement. They are learning techniques and using tools that typically you don’t see in someone until they are a graduate,” said judge Eamonn Kelly, professor of Project Management at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
Denford noted that 68% of the students in the finals were female, a share he had never seen at any other national final.
Basmah Alamer, a member of the Oryx team, said: “I have always enjoyed F1® and watching the races. I looked up what activities I could take part in to help my community or inspire me. This has been a really good opportunity to use heavy machinery and programs that engineers use. Engineering is male dominated, so I am a woman in STEM.”
‘It is not just about the car’
Over five months, 16 teams were guided by 25 professional and academic mentors at five regional hubs at universities to design and manufacture a miniature F1® car from an official F1® Model Block, which uses compressed CO2 as fuel.
They sourced sponsors and developed advertising, a social media presence, and outreach events, while promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility.
“Teamwork, management. What the kids learn is engineering that they would learn at any engineering university. There are a lot of skills to learn on this program. It’s not just about the car,” said Abdulhadi.
Over two days at Ithra, the teams presented their projects to the judges, showcased their pit projects to visitors, and competed on a straight 20-meter track in races lasting just over one second.
The judges assessed their performance in five areas: specification and scrutinizing; design and engineering; project management; enterprise; and verbal presentation.