TALON Racing advances in FormulaOne competition

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After months of late hours designing and working in the manufacturing shop, Akins TALON Racing team took their Formula 1-styled model racecar to the track in January to go head to head against schools from across Texas.

At the regional meet held at the Circuit of The Americas racetrack, TALON Racing took home a third place prize at the regional competition in January, and – more importantly – the chance to compete at the national championship in Michigan. The team also picked up awards for having the Best Engineered and Fastest car at the meet.

TALON Racing’s vehicle, made of a balsa wood chassis and powered by pressurized air, took a mere 1.15 seconds to finish the 24-meter elevated race track. Team members said they believed their new suspension system is what made their car the fastest at the competition.

“Last year we designed a full car, and we realized it was a fast car but needed more design on the suspension,” said senior Erwin Neira, who is the team’s project manager. “This year we designed a better suspension. The car [design] pretty much stayed the same.”

The competition is part of Formula 1’s F1 in Schools educational outreach program. F1 in Schools functions on a global scale, giving students ages 9 to 19 the opportunity to learn STEM-related subjects by unconventional, non-profitable means, with the intent of promoting Formula 1 racing and integrating more students into engineering-based careers.

Students…learn tooling and equipment, as well as other 21st century skills, like presenting and technical writing.”

— Juan Gonzalez, STEM Academy assistant principal

With the use of computer-based technology, teams model a design of a racing car and use manufacturing tools to shape it onto a block of balsa wood, to be raced along the track.

However, advisers for F1 in Schools programs like Juan Gonzalez, STEM Academy assistant principal, say that the program is about more than just building the fastest car.

“These students are required to learn tooling and equipment, as well as other 21st century skills, like presenting and technical writing,” Gonzalez said.

F1 in Schools challenges students to be practical and innovative in not only designing and manufacturing the design of their cars, but in handling sponsorships, budgeting, financial strategies and giving presentations as well.

Akin’s team TALON Racing was founded by Neira, manufacturing engineer James Garcia, and design engineer Hannah Holder three years ago.

Each member in TALON Racing has their own position on the team, and are assigned specific responsibilities. However, it is a collaborative group effort to create the car and present their work to judges.

It took three weeks to make. We [designed it on the computer] to see what parts had to be made.”

— Peter Glass, sophomore

Sophomore Kayley Tooney is the budgeting manager.

“We go to places around Austin, and find sponsors for our team,” she said.

Some sponsors of TALON Racing include Circuit of the Americas and Google.

Display panels giving information on the constructing and marketing processes of the car are located at the beginning of the T-STEM hallway. The posters were designed by the team’s graphic designer Hannah Kerns as part of the presentation part of the competition.

Sophomore Peter Glass, design engineer, manufactured and designed the pit display at the entrance of T-STEM hallway.

“It took three weeks to make,” Glass said. “After we came up with the design, we [designed it on the computer] to see what parts had to be made, and then we made them.”

Neira and junior James Garcia, manufacturing engineer, came up with the design of the car.

“We started off with a base design, and every year on we work off it, and improve it,” Garcia, 11 said.

Senior Hannah Holder, design engineer, helps with business and marketing and design.

Gonzalez said that the students involved in TALON excel beyond their academic work at school.

“These kids have demonstrated the ability to excel in all areas and show us what they’re learning here in Akins High School, and what they can take to the next level,” he said.

If TALON does well at the U.S./Canada national championships the team could earn a chance to compete in the world finals in Singapore in the fall.