F1: Cardiff teens aim for glory in school competition

Team Firestorm
Roha, Max, George, Hani and Maya are the only Welsh team to get to the world finals

Five teenagers will head to Singapore after reaching the world finals of an internationally renowned Formula 1 (F1) competition.

Team Firestorm, of St John's College in Cardiff, are from the only school in Wales to make it to the final stage.

They will race an air-powered car, that they have designed themselves, over a 20m (66ft) track.

The annual event aims to promote the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

George Self, 15, is project manager of the team and described his role as someone who "oversees everything".

"The style that we've adopted is [that] I co-ordinate, but we all feel like we can actually share ideas," he said.

"I think that's important with creative projects."

He set up Team Firestorm alongside current members, Max and Hani, in their first year at St John's.

Team Firestorm's car
The car designed by Team Firestorm, which they will race in Singapore

"I was fascinated by the concept of it," George said.

"Now we've done what we've done, that's kind of sparked more of an interest in me than before."

The car isn't the only thing the students are creating.

Firestorm has created an "enterprise portfolio" ahead of the finals, including details about their marketing strategies, sponsorship goals and a fundraising total to get them to Singapore.

"We've encountered so many different things as part of this project," said George.

"I think will be important to me later on. Those are skills that are just invaluable and that's kind of where I want to go with it."

The car
Firestorm's car in its earliest form

Maya and Roha joined Firestorm a few months after its inception in January 2020.

"I am looking to go into a STEM career in the future, which has all aspects of work just like this project," said Maya.

"There has really been a push for women to get into STEM and I think it's really inspiring because what previously was a male dominated industry has now become very diverse.

"In countries like the UK, it's been easier for women to get into STEM, now it's really important to get that to other countries who don't have opportunities."

Hani from Team Firestorm
Hani testing paint jobs for the new car

Firestorm will head to Singapore on Thursday.

The teammates said the rivalry with schools from England added another layer to the competition.

"England is such a big competitor for us. Obviously, it's a larger country, more companies, more sponsors, and there's just much more support there," said Maya.

"It's always been a challenge for us to be number one. But for us now to be competing, being the only Welsh team, I think is a massive honour for us."

It could be the final chapter for this team who have their GSCEs coming up next May.

"If you can only give it an hour a week, it's just not something that you can sustain," George said.

"It's a shame because everyone is so devoted, but after the competition we will sit down as a team, discuss what went well and how it all fits together."

Team Firestorm
The team try out their new kit which they will don in Singapore

Andrew Denford, founder and chairman of F1 in Schools, said he was preparing for "the biggest edition of our global STEM challenge to date".

"Twenty-three years later, we're into 60 countries around the world and 26,000 schools," he said.

Mr Denford said "a lot of alumni" from the project had headed into future STEM careers.

"It's just incredible to see the outcomes for them," he said.

"How they've made themselves ready for work."

Women in STEM

Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW), or STEMCymru, supports Welsh students participating in F1 in Schools.

Activities Manager Stephen Lane said there had been "significant focus" on encouraging women into STEM careers, but admitted the sector was still male-dominated.

"The shift is starting to happen, but we need to keep the momentum up," he said.

He hoped Team Firestorm could bring home the crown, but said they had "already achieved so much".

"Team Firestorm have proved that they deserve their place on the world stage," said Stephen.

"Now its up to them to prove themselves against the best teams in the world."