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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAHRAN: The Kingdom’s first Formula 1 in Schools event took place at the King Abdulaziz Center for Culture (Ithra) recently.
The three-day event featured F1 race car displays and discussion sessions led by F1 experts, as well as the announcement of the Saudi teams who will represent the Kingdom in the Aramco F1 in Schools World Finals in Singapore later this year: Shaheen from Dhahran, Oryx from Dhahran, and Abiyya from Riyadh.
The five regions represented were Dhahran, Al Ahsa, Riyadh, Madinah and Jeddah. Dhahran won big, collecting seven of the 13 national awards.
According to the official statement, “F1 in Schools is a global educational program that aims to raise awareness of STEM and Formula 1 among school students. Students are challenged and inspired through a STEM-based learning program covering topics such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacturing, branding, graphics, sponsorship, marketing, leadership/teamwork, media skills and financial strategy.
“The students will then apply what they learn in a practical, imaginative, exciting and competitive environment that echoes a scaled-down version of an F1 team.”
• F1 in Schools is a competition where students form teams to design and manufacture miniature F1 race cars.
• The Saudi teams that won the national finals are Shaheen from Dhahran, Oryx from Dhahran, and Abiyya from Riyadh.
Andrew Denford, founder and chairman of F1 in Schools, told Arab News: “I’ve just attended the first ever Saudi Arabia national final, it’s been absolutely incredible.” He noted that 68% of the participating students were female.
“We’re over the moon,” he continued. “I can’t wait to see the three teams in Singapore in September in the World Finals.”
During the awards ceremony, Ithra director Abdullah Al-Rashid offered words of encouragement to the students. He said Saudi Arabia is known for its energy — but will also be now known for the energy of its youth.
He noted that the F1 in Schools program not only helped to create young leaders of the future, but built friendships that he hoped would last a lifetime. The students “didn’t just build a car,” he told the crowd.
Aramco announced its plan to sponsor F1 in Schools as a title partner back in 2019. Ithra, being an Aramco initiative, took the wheel in the Kingdom, in partnership with the King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals.
Through a rigorous selection process, 16 teams from across Saudi Arabia were chosen to participate. Each team had a local training hub, including specialist facilitators and a state-of-the-art research and development lab. The training included creating a brand identity and marketing plan, as well as learning about the engineering involved in F1 cars.
We call ourselves Shaheen. It is the fastest supercomputer in the world (located in KAUST). And it’s also Arabic for ‘falcon,’ which represents the culture of our country, Saudi Arabia.
Noor Alsadat, Shaheen project manager
David Palfreeman, one of the judges, who flew in from Australia for the occasion, has been a judge in the program since 2018. He noted that the students in Saudi Arabia were already at the same level as some of the graduate students he has met.
“Super, super-impressed with the quality of the presentation and documentation, the standard is really high. Just very, very well presented. Really well thought-out, consistent,” he told Arab News. “The Saudi students are all so articulate, they’re so confident. It’s really exciting.”
Ithra also hosted a few interactive sessions to coincide with the announcement of the winners. The Great Hall had F1 simulator stations, exhibition booths, a Lego workshop, a pit-stop challenge and a “Formula 1 Through the Years” exhibition.
In the main plaza, a neon-green Aston Martin car with the Aramco logo could be seen and was likely the most photographed item during the three-day event. There was also a booth selling official Aramco and Aston Martin F1 merchandise, including gilets, caps, t-shirts and other items.
The big winners of the day, team Shaheen, were led by project manager Noor Alsadat, who jumped up and down with her whole team as the crowd rose to their feet to applaud them.
“We are very happy that we won first place. I’m very proud of my team. We came from different schools, we met in the Khobar Hub and we created our team,” Alsadat told Arab News. “We call ourselves Shaheen. It is the fastest supercomputer in the world (located in KAUST). And it’s also Arabic for ‘falcon,’ which represents the culture of our country, Saudi Arabia.”
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