Student racers go high-tech in search for speed

6 Mar 2015

An all-girl team of high school students competing in the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge has consulted with University of Queensland neuroscientists ahead of the national final at the Australian Grand Prix next week.

The four Redcliffe State High School students who form the Infinite Racing team turned to UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute to use high speed cameras capable of filming at 1000 frames a second to see how their car was performing.

QBI’s Professor Mandyam Srinivasan, a visual and sensory neuroscientist studying the flight behaviour of animals, said the students hoped to make their car design more aerodynamic and optimise the launch.

“They are being supported by Boeing to help make their design more aerodynamic, and our lab is also working with the company, so the team got in touch with us because they knew we use high speed cameras to film our birds,” Professor Srinivasan said.

Scientists at the Neuroscience of Vision and Aerial Robotics Laboratory at QBI are studying animal flight to determine how to improve aircraft flight efficiency, much like the high school team is improving their car’s performance.

20cm-long cars, powered by a small canister of compressed CO2, accelerate to 80km/hr in just 0.4 seconds, on a short run down a 25-metre track.

“There’s only one instant, right at the start, when thrust is generated from the car’s CO2 canister to propel the car. So maximising the efficiency of the launch from the starting gate is critical for their speed,” Professor Srinivasan said.

The team is led by year 12 student Freya King and will compete in the national final at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne from 12-15 March.

Miss King said QBI’s help improved the team’s understanding of how the car was performing against the forces exerted by its quick acceleration during the launch.

“This testing helped us understand how the car and the suspension system react to the initial force at the start of the race,” Miss King said.

“We have been able to tweak our launch to help transfer some of the many forces acting on our car at this part of the race, to maximise our acceleration down the track,” she said.

The Infinite Racing team, formed in 2013, finished second in the Queensland state final to make this year’s national final for the second consecutive year. The winner of the national event will go to the world final.

“It is very exciting knowing we are going to go to the track every day to compete and we also get to watch the race, it’s an amazing experience that the whole team will never forget,” Miss King said.

The competition sees students using a range of science, technology, engineering and mathematical skills to make the cars.

“I have always wanted to be an engineer and doing this program has made me more excited to become one,” Miss King said.

Media: Darius Koreis, +61 7 3346 6353,; Professor Mandyam Srinivasan, +61 7 3346 6322, +61 434 603 082,; Shona McKinlay, Redcliffe State High School, +61 7 3897 1111,