LIGHTYEAR FOUNDATION HOST F1 IN SCHOOLS VIRTUAL LAB
Lightyear Foundation is a small but mighty UK-wide charity committed to breaking barriers to disabled children participating in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Disabled children face multiple disadvantages in education, careers and life skills and are all too often excluded from STEM. They exist to ensure that no disabled child is denied the opportunity to love and learn from these subjects or to go on to contribute to society in these fields.
In June 2022, 26 students from John Watson School in Oxfordshire, a community special school for children with severe, complex, or profound learning difficulties, took part in our Formula 1 Virtual Lab, delivered in partnership with F1 in Schools. Groups of 6–7 students attended weekly 45-minute sessions for four weeks in a mixture of online and in-person delivery. The Lightyear Foundation has worked with the resources and engineers at F1 in Schools to develop an inspirational hands-on experience for the Key Stage 3 and 4 children in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) Schools. The f1 virtual Lab enabled the students to experience the thrill of building and launching a model F1 in Schools car!
The students loved the project – particularly the hands-on, face-to-face aspects. They loved learning new Makaton and BSL signs to explain the forces experienced by the cars. The teachers found this useful training too. Having real engineers take part in the project was a key point in building enthusiasm and engagement. Students loved getting individual feedback from their group’s engineer on the aerodynamics of their car (via a Zoom call). The students learned that engineers are approachable and interesting people – and that engineering is absolutely fascinating.
The in-person wind tunnel and race day were definitely the most engaging sessions for all students. With it being in person, rather than online, it was much easier for the Lightyear Foundation to modify the sessions based on need and engagement. Students were delighted to learn how to operate the wind tunnel and smoke machine for themselves and to see the direct effects of their input. The Race Day caused huge excitement as the students arrived at school to see a 10m long racetrack through the communal area!
The students taking part in the project were enthused and engaged by the hands-on aspects of the F1 in Schools Virtual Lab. Of those able to answer, 69% gave the project top marks for fun and 63% gave the project top marks for understanding what they had done. Lightyear Foundation found that compared to a school science lesson, 96% of students were more engaged by the F1 Virtual Lab. They also wanted to compare the project with how engaged the students are with their favourite lesson – which can include Riding for the Disabled and swimming: They learnt that 75% were more engaged with the lab than with their favourite activity!
The F1 Virtual Lab has the power to bring innovative and inspiring STEM learning experiences to students in SEND schools. Lightyear Foundation are excited to explore the development of this partnership with F1 in Schools so they can bring the wonder of race car engineering into more special school classrooms.
“Pupils were engaged and motivated to participate. Fabulous teaching us the terms in sign language, thank you!” - Deputy Head
“The joy in the room was what this is all about! I love how engaged the students were and that they were allowed to load and launch their cars.” - F1 in Schools Employee