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RACING TO THE WORLD STAGE

WORDS & PICTURES: Jessica Schubick

Nine local students are heading to the prestigious World Finals of the F1 in Schools competition, after bringing home the first-place trophy at the USA National Championships in February. The winning P1NNACLE team from Manatee County is comprised of students from three area schools – including six competitive and three support team members. Based out of Palmetto High School, the team additionally includes members from Southeast High School and the University of South Florida. They will compete for the World Championship title in the Fall.

F1 in Schools is a global STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) competition open to teams of three to six students between the ages of nine and nineteen. It brings the excitement and appeal of Formula One™ racing to students around the world. F1 in Schools has become one of the world’s largest STEM competitions, with more than 20 million students from more than 40 countries competing since its inception in 2004. The participating F1 in Schools teams must use CAD/CAM software to design, manufacture, test, and race miniature compressed air-powered cars made from F1 model blocks. Teams also raise sponsorship money and manage budgets to fund research, travel, and accommodations.

According to the F1 in Schools website: “The challenge inspires students to use IT to learn about physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership/teamwork, media skills, and financial strategy, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive, and exciting way.” Last year’s F1 in Schools World Finals competition was held in Singapore. While this year’s location has not yet been announced, the host sites are usually set to coincide with a Formula One Grand Prix. Past locations have included Melbourne, Australia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, England; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. In addition to winning the National Championships after three days of competition at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, P1NNACLE also won awards for Best Engineered Car, Best Verbal Presentation, Best Enterprise Award, Most Innovative Thinking, and the Scrutineering Award.

The team’s Design Engineer, Jaxson Bunes – a freshman at the University of South Florida majoring in chemical engineering – was previously a member of Perspective, one of last year’s USA teams also representing Manatee County schools. The Perspective team placed second in Nationals and third in the 2018 F1 in Schools World Finals. As the only returning competitor, and the oldest teammate, Jaxson is the veteran member of the team – offering guidance and expertise to his teammates. The rest of P1NNACLE’s team consists of Freshmen and Sophomores from Palmetto and Southeast high schools – all of whom are new to F1 in Schools. “One of the things we tried to do this year was to involve younger students, so that they can grow with the program for several years and so that they won’t have to make a brand-new team every year,” Jaxson explained.

Sophomore Jaye Kendzior is the Team Manager, Freshman Eleanor Hopkins is the Graphic Designer, Freshman Arianna Longo is the Resource Manager, Junior Abbygale Owen is the Social Media Manager, and Sophomore Hunter Raley is the Manufacturing Engineer. The team also has three support members – Elizabeth Casadonte, Hayden Simon, and Milan “Sammy” Slovak. Team Manager Jaye Kendzior explained that joining the P1NNACLE team required a large commitment of time and energy. “It’s too big of a competition not to be fully invested in it,” she said. But each of the team members agreed that the commitment pays off in big ways. While some of the P1NNACLE team members are not yet settled on a career path, most plan to enter STEM-related fields. The F1 in Schools competition is providing them with valuable real-world experience and the opportunity to interact with successful professionals working in these industries today.

Jaxson and his teammates are getting the most out of the experiences offered by the competition. “It’s an amazing opportunity. The judges at World Finals are engineers from Formula One,” Jaxson further explained that the teams have also been given access to the Formula One pits, tracks, and crews while at World Finals. He continued: “It’s really cool to be able to meet with actual F1 engineers and say, ‘Hey, I want to pick your brain…’ and they let you!”  

As the P1NNACLE team heads to F1 in Schools World Finals, their schools, families, and community wish them the best of luck. Learn more about the team and follow their progress at www.PinnacleRacing.us.

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