Sky Sports F1 commentator, David Croft, hosted a lively F1 in Schools presentation at the recent BETT Show, with special guest, Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal from Williams Racing. Claire was alongside Andrew Denford, F1 in Schools Founder and Chairman, three students who have successfully competed in the challenge, Katelyn Chelberg, Nathan Bryce and Stelios Mavromatis, and teacher Phil Cain, on the F1 in Schools panel.

Andrew Denford gave the audience an overview of the F1 in Schools STEM challenge and its close relationship with the Formula 1 industry, explaining its aim of inspiring students to consider engineering as a career through the sport. “We aim to have F1 in Schools embedded in the curriculum starting at 11 years and take them through different levels of the challenge as they gain skills and experience, not only in engineering, but in life skills such as giving presentations, seeking sponsors, marketing and, not least, team work.”

Claire said of the need for more engineers, “For us, at Williams, to try and encourage the next generation of engineers, as well as building cars and going racing. There is a shortage of children taking the STEM subjects needed in industries such as ours and we’re keen to promote the opportunities for them.”

Formula 1 is a male dominated sport, but F1 in Schools prides itself on having a healthy engagement with girls participating in the competition with girls being around 35% of the participants. Claire says of the need to attract more females in to the sport, “the landscape of motorsport as a whole is changing and we’re seeing more girls coming into it and similar environments, but we need to do more and that’s why we go into schools and talk to both girls and boys. We’re certainly seeing more girls apply for engineering type roles than we’ve had previously and a real shift in the girls working across all the engineering disciplines. But still, of about 300 engineers only about 5% are women and that’s something we need to change. Most importantly, it’s about having the best of the best people for such a competitive sport as Formula 1. “

Of F1 in Schools Claire said, “What Andrew (Denford) has managed to achieve with F1 in Schools is phenomenal. To see the students doing what they are doing and doing it so well with the enthusiasm they have, is very inspiring. It’s also a fertile ground for us to go in and find the engineers of the future.”

She explains of the tie-up with F1 in Schools, “Working with F1 in Schools has been a great initiative for us and off the back of this Williams and one of our sponsors, Randstad, has launched the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy, an eLearning Academy, that takes students who have come through F1 in Schools on a seven year process to give them a grounding and understanding of what it is like to work in Formula 1. It’s a great platform and springboard into our sport.”

Two members of the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy talked of their experience. Nathan said of his experience, “The amount of insight you get is amazing and to be mentored by such experienced people is a real privilege.” Katelyn added, “Being given the support of a mentor through GCSE’s on to college and on through a degree and extra guidance to a career in Formula 1 is a real benefit that I’m relishing.”

Phil Cain said of F1 in Schools, “We looked around for an exciting challenge that interested girls as well as boys. As a teacher it’s given me many benefits, but it’s made teaching for me, far more exciting, as well as giving the students’ a unique learning experience.”


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