College four do PMB proud in F1 challenge

2009-10-12 00:00

WHAT started off as a Grade 10 project, took four Maritzburg College pupils halfway across the world to compete in the F1 Schools’ World Championship and even enabled them to meet their icon, current F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The icing on the cake, however, was the fact that the boys were placed 10th during the championships recently held in London having competed against 31 teams representing 20 countries.

Attwell Ndobe (17), Yasteel Sitaram (16), Shahil Rajpaul (17) and Lynton Dent (17), who together made up Maritzburg College’s F1 team, were not only first-time participants, but came in as underdogs in the competition having placed second in the nationals.

The group boasted the fastest mode­l car, covering 20 metres in 1,051 seconds, but they were penalised for being two grams too light.

In the end they managed to push through to 10th position overall, judged on various engineering specifications.

Shahil described the trip as a “life-changing experience” and said it gave them the opportunity to gain knowledge that would be useful in the future.

However, excitement for the Ixopo-born Attwell started before he even left South Africa, as it was his first time in an aeroplane.

According to Yasteel, College’s entire grade 10 Engineering Graphics and Design class had to participate in the project last year. Their group decided to pursue it further than the classroom since they have interest in engineering as a vocation.

Lynton, who thought it great that an icon like Hamilton would acknowledge their work, said going into the project he had no idea how big engineering was and described the competition as a great opportunity for them to realise just how many different fields there really are.

“Engineering has different aspects and disciplines. We learnt that we can engineer for race cars which most of us are seriously considering as a profession.”

Naturally, the team had many odds against them. The boys found that they did not have ready access to necessary facilities as many overseas teams did.

However, the trip wasn’t just about the competition.

They had the chance to see the best of London such as the London Eye and a show of Oliver at the West End Theatre.

Lynton was especially impressed by the Underground transport system as it gives pupils more freedom and there is no need for parents to chauffeur kids around.

The advice the boys said they received from Hamilton was that if they work hard, they could, one day, be a part of F1.

Their teacher, Ben Bosch, said all this was a result of hard work by the boys with no interference from him.

He said a team from College qualified for the world championships last year to go to Malaysia, but were let down by sponsors.

However, they still managed to collaborate with a Scottish team and came first under the portfolio category for the car they had cut out.

The championships were started with the idea of encouraging engineers in more countries.

Winners receive bursaries to study at an English University of their choice. However, this crop of hopeful engineers is unsure as to whether they will participate in the competition next year.

The project required a year of hard work and many late nights, which might be hard for the pupils as they will be in matric.

Either way, Bosch is confident that the team he’ll take next year will have what it takes to be the next champions. They will be better prepared after seeing what is expected of them.

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