In 1953, Rosalind Franklin was robbed of a Nobel Prize when her work did not receive recognition in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Although massive leaps have been made to address the inequality in STEM since then, women still only make up 28% of the workforce across all STEM industries. Even though the statistics remain low, I’m encouraged to pursue STEM because of the community that does exist around women’s empowerment. I am now a part of Bumblebee Racing, an all-girls F1 in Schools team that hopes to break down barriers of entry for women in STEM and promote the presence of women in STEM.
The Bumblebee Racing team poses for a photo at a regional competition for F1 in Schools. The all-girls team is passionate about helping fellow girls and women learn new tech skills.
F1 in Schools is an international competition that challenges students to design, build, and race a model of a Formula 1 car. Students have to create iteration after iteration to find the best design possible, find sponsorship, and build a team identity. As part of this competition, we learn about and use CAD (computer aided design) and CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software to improve and make iterations of our car. We investigate things like the Venturi effect and the optimum wheel base theory that will help form our design. It involves a lot of hard work and a lot of head-scratching, but solving problems and overcoming challenges is one of the most satisfying feelings.
Bumblebee Racing wants to use this competition and our drive for learning to create greater change within our community as well and work towards something we were passionate about: greater gender equality in STEM. We designed and launched a course for primary school students that taught them about the scientific concepts behind Formula 1 cars. They later used this to design and race their own cars, something which they thoroughly enjoyed. This has been one of the most important things we have done. Being able to give back to our community and encouraging students to pursue their dreams has been so rewarding.
My interest in STEM began at a young age. Every Sunday after dinner, without fail, my family would gather to watch the next of an endless series of documentaries. It was there, listening to David Attenborough and Brian Cox, that I fell in love with science. From learning about the many facets of nature to the fascinating adaptations of flora and fauna alike that have enabled them to live in the harshest conditions, to the ingenious inventions of mankind, science is about knowledge and understanding. It is about taking little building blocks of knowledge—like the fact that metallic structures have delocalized electrons—and assembling them together to identify concepts and explain things that we take for granted every day—like the reason why metal feels cool to the touch. Those documentaries were the beginning of my interest, and I quickly found myself searching for more answers. Looking at the stars in the night sky, writing lines upon lines of code, and watching the pinnacle of motorsport and engineering in Formula 1 were all ways that I could garner more of this understanding. Though faced with many obstacles, I was lucky enough to be able to pursue these interests, but many other girls are stopped by prejudice or stigma. Our team believes that everyone should be able to enjoy STEM regardless of their identity, which is our motivation behind our work.
As part of their efforts to get kids excited about developing technical skills, the Bumblebee Racing team works with primary school kids on fun, interactive projects related using the skills they learned in the F1 in Schools program.
The first interaction I had with tech was a spur of the moment decision. I had played around with scratch, a program created in partnership with MIT to engage younger coders, and learned how to solve problems by breaking them down into smaller logical blocks. If Action A occurs, then perform Action B and so on. Through blood, sweat and tears, I created a basic video game! The problem-solving aspect of this fun project pushed me to explore more. I enjoyed the challenge of it all: having to explore the task from multiple angles and experiencing the satisfying feeling when I had finally solved it. But solving this challenge only made me look for many more: something harder and more complicated. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward. Although I had no idea where to start, someone suggested learning a coding language. The idea of it interested me: coding is about creating a set of logical instructions that can carry out many functions, from video games to applications on your phone. It unlocked a new world for me. Through watching YouTube videos, I gained a basic understanding of the coding language ‘python.’ This evolved into small projects: first coding a simple ‘rock, paper, scissors’ bot and moving onto coding websites in HTML, among other things.
For me, coding and tech is hard and sometimes makes me want to throw my computer across the room, but it is gratifying and rewarding. The more I explore it, the more enamoured by it I become.
Learn more about all the ways you, too, can start your journey in STEM!
- To join the F1 in Schools competition, create a team and register through your school! You can start brainstorming and there are many resources online, including on the F1 in Schools Youtube Channel. F1 in Schools has three classes: entry, development and professional, an optimal pathway for those looking to start. More information can be found on the F1 in Schools website.
- F1 in Schools also offers a ‘mini project’ that is a lower commitment than the competition and is perfect for after school clubs or smaller passion projects
- Follow our F1 in Schools journey on @bumblebeeracing6 on Instagram or email [email protected] with any questions or comments!
- Sign up to get notified when ChickTech programming is available. Join us for free opportunities like one-on-one mentorship with STEM professionals and interactive workshops on topics including cybersecurity, robotics, and game design.