Limerick students drive on women in STEM with all-female race team

The team was quick off the line with their Formula One design and hopes to encourage other female students to participate in the racing competition.
Limerick students drive on women in STEM with all-female race team

(L-R) Genevieve Bachelet, Sophie Coleman, Alannah O'Connell. Margherita Ní Fhlatharta Picture: Laurel Hill Racing

Drivers, start your engines! 

Four Limerick secondary school students hope to encourage other girls into science and engineering with their school's entry into a Formula One competition for the first time. 

An early design of Laurel Hill racing's car. Picture: Laurel Hill Racing
An early design of Laurel Hill racing's car. Picture: Laurel Hill Racing

Entrants into F1 in Schools design, build, and race miniature Formula One cars in a national competition with the winner representing Ireland at the world final. 

Genevieve Bachelet, Sophie Coleman, Alannah O'Connell, and Margherita Ní Fhlatharta entered their all-female team after a new maths teacher at their school told them about the competition for the first time. 

The Laurel Hill secondary school students combined a love of racing from their parents with their admiration for the Netflix documentary Drive to Survive. 

"We would love watching the races and then once we saw the competition it was great that we could manufacture our own car," said project manager Margherita Ní Fhlatharta.

A lack of direct experience didn't hold back the team either when the students first heard about the competition.  

Using Autocad design software made available to competition entrants, the team was soon able to start fine-tuning their design in their free time. 

"It was pretty challenging because we don't really have this type of science in our school so we had to figure out everything for ourselves and googling Youtube videos," said project designer, Genevieve Bachelet. "But the F1 in Schools website had a large amount of resources so it wasn't that difficult we just had to figure out first how to operate the software and systems and then we had it going," she said. 

The early entrants to the competition were quick off the line to get their design up and running with registration for the competition open until the end of October. 

The design begins to take shape. Picture: Laurel Hill Racing
The design begins to take shape. Picture: Laurel Hill Racing

On the hunt for team sponsors, Laurel Hill racing is planning future fundraisers for their race car's manufacture in January. 

But first, the team is looking forward to the competition's judging stage in December when designs are submitted for the first time. 

For Laurel Hill racing, the chance to encourage other girls into engineering and science was important to them as more role models are needed to drive on female participation. 

"We're in an all-girls school and we have always been encouraged to speak our minds and to go for anything that we want to do. 

"They've always said: "If you can see it, you can be it".  They always had posters of past pupils doing software and working in sports. 

"It's really important because there are no female idols or role models in Formula One," said Sophie Coleman, social media manager. 

"Even as this is the first time for our school, as sixth years we want to be mentors for next year so that the school keeps on doing it. This is a very exciting competition. It's a good experience and nobody knows about it and I think that's pretty awful, to be honest," said Genevieve. 

A very early first design. 
A very early first design. 

Successful entrants from December advance into the competition's manufacturing stage in January 2022 before regional competitions are held in March 2022. 

A national final in May decides the winner who will advance to represent Ireland at the world finals in September. 

The current national champions are Galway's St Brigid's College in Loughrea, who have won the competition the last five years in a row. 

Laurel Hill racing is keeping track of their progress on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/laurelhillracing/ and said any support is welcome. 

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