The Year 7 students of Alperton Community School were given the great opportunity to participate in the Race for the Line (RFTL) – a car racing competition based on an international STEM model. The course of the programme extended over 6 weeks, beginning just after the spring half term. During this period, students were assigned in teams of 4 pupils with the primary aim of building the fastest race car from a given set of foam blocks that would be powered by military grade rockets. Afterwards, competitions were held internally to determine a winning car/team, which would go further to compete in the regional finals against other schools.
Sessions begun with the initial ‘Design Phase’ in which students were shown instructional videos and demonstrations by Mr. Lazaroo, the RFTL Lead Facilitator. These sessions took place for two weeks during registration time, during which students were briefed on the design’s constraints, safety features and limiting factors, while also being introduced to ideas of aerodynamics as well as the influence of mass and weight on the speed of the car. The teams were encouraged to participate in active discussion and contribute with ideas in order to boost teamwork, leadership, innovation and creativity amongst pupils, aided by a sixth former and the registration tutor. One male and female Lead Rocket Scientist from each class were nominated to be the representatives of that class with the purpose of being the liaison with the lead facilitator for any RFTL queries.
The next four weeks were the ‘Cutting and Assembling Phase’ during which each class were given time slots in the Product Design classroom to cut their car designs to shape and sand the designs to perfection. Students explored different hands-on practical skills in these sessions which included using a hot-wire foam cutter, different grade sand paper as well as a sanding machine, which helped engage coordination in using tools as well as various problem solving aspects. Students were given additional drop-in sessions during lunch time for them to complete any outstanding work, whether it was sanding, assembling wheels or simply decorating their completed cars to showcase recognition of their final product! Sixth form volunteers were present in most sessions of both phases.
The school level finals was held on the last week of the spring term in the MUGA. A set of timing gates provided by the The Learning Partnership and Dendrite, the overall programme organisers, were used to determine the fastest race cars. Sixth form volunteers and some staff members were present to facilitate the smooth running of the programme for the day, while others came to spectate and bask with the jubilant ambience of cheers, fun, excitement and competitiveness sustained by the students. The winners of the school competition were Vivek, Sobhan, Yash and Niral, together forming the group ‘Mr. Noobs’.
These students went on to receive a personalised programme of support from the Lead Facilitator at the start of the summer term with the focus of fine-tuning and/or enhancing their skill sets in preparation for the RFTL Regional Finals. They delegated tasks amongst themselves and practiced their roles to the best of their ability, especially whilst working under time pressure. These pupils created a series of models whose effectiveness in design were discussed and evaluated with critical thinking.
On the 9th May 2019, these four students proudly represented Alperton Community School in the West London Race for the Line Regional Finals held in The Kingston Academy. They were given an hour to design, cut and assemble their cars from scratch independently, without the aid of any staff members. Their car was raced and came in 6th place among the 15 participating schools from this region. Congratulations to all participant students and many thanks to all staff involved in the project for all their hard work and commitment.