Teaching 21st century skills through F1 in Schools

Design for manufacturing

As the Head of Design Technology at my school, I am always challenged to look at new ways to engage students in the design and manufacturing process. Through my years of experience, I have discovered that students learn best when engaged in a project that offers various ways for a student to participate depending on their own personal interest. 

I was looking for something that took the students beyond the basics of exploring CAD to working through a project that supports all aspects of design for manufacturing. With manufacturing processes moving out of the factory thanks to newer technologies such as 3D printing, it was important for me to teach my students design with manufacturing in mind, to get them ready for the jobs of the future and design entrepreneurship.

I explored various projects, searching for one that would be engaging for students, provide them real-world experience with design and manufacturing, introduce them to new career possibilities, and have a global reach.  F1 in Schools met all of those criteria.

F1 in Schools is the world’s largest secondary school technology project. With over 9 million participating students worldwide and patrons that boast F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and Formula 1 management, it is an exciting and successful project that is inspiring more and more students into following future paths of design and engineering. Since Autodesk partners with F1 to provide free design software and learning content, the students are able to build skills in 3D design, CAD modeling, and manufacturing as part of the competition. We have now embedded F1 in Schools as a curriculum project in Year 9 at the Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur, and have around 130 students participating each year and an annual race day in March.

Real-world workflows 

The F1 in Schools project provides a great opportunity for my students to build skills for real jobs, and encourages them to apply what they learn in their core STEAM courses to their design work. To do this, we leverage the Design Academy F1 in Schools tutorials, which teach the students how to model, test, and manufacture their F1 car, mimicking a real-world design workflow.

As a teacher, it is important that all of my students, no matter their level of ability, are able to participate in the project. At my school, we carry out the project with year 9 students (aged 14 years). One of the objectives is to introduce students to CAD, and specifically 3D CAD and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). Obviously there is often a wide ability range in the age group, and so we use Autodesk Fusion 360, which allows all students to achieve success quickly. By allowing students to work on the tutorials (which come with beginner, intermediate, and advanced level instruction) at the level they feel most suited to, we allow for differentiation. We always found workflow to be the main issue with students using CAD. While sketching, students can begin designing any component at any time with little impact on the overall design, whereas in CAD, students must follow and understand a design workflow. We find that the project allows students to get a better understanding of design overall, and how to design for manufacturing, understanding constraints, tolerances, and other limitations. 

Tangible outcomes: CNC machining, 3D printing, and rendering

What sets Design & Technology apart from other curriculum areas is that students get to see the realization of their designs and ideas. The fact that students get so many tangible outcomes from the F1 project make it appealing to me as a teacher. We are lucky enough to have hardware to allow this to happen in school, but we have previously outsourced manufacturing elements to great success also. Students use an iterative design process to design aerofoils, car bodies, and wheels, and test them, both virtually and in reality. The use of inexpensive 3D printers allows refinements to occur after discussions with the team. The subtractive and additive techniques involved with CNC milling and 3D printing also provide students hands-on access to curriculum content they are required to understand, but in an exciting and practical context. Add to this the quality renders they can make with Fusion 360 and Autodesk Showcase, and students and parents alike are suitably impressed with the professional looking outcomes achieved.

Students use manufacturing techniques such as CNC milling to make models of their cars.

Future-ready: Collaboration

We have found previously that many software packages and even manufacturing methods used in schools are rather education-specific, and don’t provide students with the skills they need for real-world jobs. What we like about Fusion 360 is that it allows students to learn industry skills in the classroom, such as design collaboration, that they can take with them into the workplace. And since Autodesk products are available free for students, they can access them at home and further develop their skills. 

As a Mac school, but in a department with PC’s also, the fact that it is cross-platform is also a huge benefit to us.  With the regular updates that happen also, it’s a really useful piece of our teaching kit, and has transformed our curriculum and the quality of student outcomes.

Essentially, F1 in Schools is a group project, and that is one of the reasons we value it so much. Students work in teams of up to six people and they all have a say in the decisions their team makes, despite having individual roles, from how to raise sponsorship money to what to include in their design portfolio. The collaboration aspect of Fusion 360 is brilliant as it allows all students to work on the same designs and truly collaborate with their ideas, usually from the comfort of their home. These can also be shared with faculty who are then able to offer opinions, advice, and the odd refinement. This is a lot easier to do on the model itself, rather than through an email! This collaboration means that outcomes are usually vastly improved, and they get an understanding of how groups of designers work together in industry. The graphic designer, engineering consultant, and team manager all collaborate on the same models with folders of refinements at the end of the process.

Fusion 360 increases student collaboration because students can share designs online and work on the most recent versions from home.

F1 in Schools is all about teamwork. Students have to form teams of three to six people and must demonstrate through the process their team participation as well as individual roles within that group. Although there is a team leader, I have discovered time after time that the groups that succeed are those that work best as a team, helping each other out through any difficulties and offering advice and reflection throughout the process. Alongside this, another aspect is collaboration with industry. Whether it is working with local engineers to gain an insight into their car manufacture or learning how merchandise is printed at a local printing firm, collaboration and future learning is at the heart of the project.

Eyes on the prize

We have an in-school competition each year for F1 in Schools where the students showcase their work to judges, parents, and peers. They get to race the cars they have toiled over for so long, and the excitement in the school hall is amazing! 

What we love about it is the scope available to them. Many students produce basic models, following tutorials and producing a standard car, with a basic paint job. However, some take it really far and start to look at computational fluid dynamics, mass calculations, and a range of other tests and calculations in a bid to outwit and ultimately beat their classmates. After each competition, the winners have the opportunity to go on to the next level. This year’s winners are currently getting ready to compete in the South East Asian International Schools finals, with the chance to go to the world finals in 2017! At this stage, the use of Fusion really comes into its own. They fine-tune renders, pop in company and sponsorship decals, and really explore the finer details of CAD and CAM to compete against the best in the world. 

We look forward to starting the program again in August with a new cohort of eager future engineers.

Start your own F1 team using these tutorials