F1 in Schools WebsiteF1 in Schools, the global engineering challenge for school children, of which I am proud to be a patron, has had two major breakthroughs recently.
First the world championship finals due to take place in Singapore this year have been boosted by a sponsorship deal with LG Electronics. And then at Silverstone last weekend, one of the participants, Kelly Ashbridge, who has represented her school in Carlisle in F1 in Schools, got the chance to interview Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey, an active patron of the programme.
Through F1 in Schools, Kelly has become interested in engineering as a vocation and wanted to find out about women and engineering and to ask the maestro’s advice on getting a career in F1.
Although the ratio of women engineers in F1 teams is very low, F1 in Schools has a very high ratio of female competitors, around 35%, and all-girl teams are quite common. And yet when they get to around 15 years of age, the numbers fall away and few girls pursue engineering degrees.
This is something many Governments and F1 in Schools want to understand and correct. The programme is now in 32 countries world wide and is doing great work exposing F1 in particular and engineering in general to millions of school children.
Here is an extract from Kelly’s interview with Newey.
Kelly Ashbridge“In your career, how many girls have you come across who are keen on engineering?”
Adrian Newey “In Red Bull we have, I believe 140 engineers and of those in aerodynamics we have 2 (women), then we have 1 in vehicle dynamics, one in stress and 2 in general design, so I think that comes to about 6 or so. So 6 in 140 – 4%. It’s a small percentage, I am afraid, but it’s not too bad.”
Kelly “Do you think that girls should take more of a dominating role, do you think it’s time we took over? Do you think we are capable of it?”
Adrian“Yes, the girls we have are certainly very good engineers. They have earnt there place, we don’t hire them simply because they are females and they continue to contribute just as well as the blokes. I think to be honest, nobody, we are just not conscious of it, they are just another person.”
Kelly“Do you think F1 in Schools is a good way to introduce young people to Formula One and to engineering as a career path?”
Adrian “I think it’s a great way, I think not only to get into Formula One but also to get involved with something, to understand the spirit of the competition, to look at the details, to work with other people, to get it from an idea to designed product to competition. I think it’s fantastic.
“That for me is a life skill, it’s not just something that you would necessarily apply to Formula One. It’s a general life experience which you can apply to anything and that’s why i am such a strong supporter of Andrew’s (Denford, the founder of F1 in Schools) work.
Kelly “For people in my position who have done the F1 in Schools competition and are applying to university what is the next thing to do to keep them on the right path to make sure they are going the right way?”
Adrian “I won’t pretend that getting into Formula One is easy. There is an element of chance and luck with it – it’s not easy unfortunately. All I can advise is first of all don’t necessarily be hung up about getting into Formula One. It may be that you can get a job in another category and then once you are in the industry if you are good, normally, I shouldn’t say this, but it becomes easier to move around. Get work experience wherever possible and that doesn’t necessarily mean, you obviously apply for a team, to see if you can get work experience, we, like other teams have a limited number of places each year and again there is an element of luck in who gets those.”
“Also look at spannering for a Formula 3 team, generally anything on your CV that shows you are not only academically intelligent, but also that you are passionate about it. I think the big thing about motor racing is that it does generally involve long hours and so demands a lot of dedication and what your CV needs to try and demonstrate is that you have that dedication and you are prepared to do that.”
Kelly“So what advice would you give someone in my position?”
Adrian “Don’t give up is probably the first one. It’s not an easy one to get through. Be flexible. Don’t set your heart on Formula One initially. There are other teams, even other categories, even rallying, maybe motorbikes, I don’t know. Try to build out your CV as we spoke about and then try to not get too dispirited when you keep applying and it may be even, that we don’t always hire out of universities, so even if you get to the point where you have to take a job otherwise your Mum is going to kick you out or something, and it’s not in motor racing, then take that job, but you know, try applying again.”
For more information on F1 in Schools go to: http://www.f1inschools.co.uk/