The Australian Government and industry groups have been discussing the projected “skills shortage” for a number of years. This concern for the future is mirrored in many countries including the USA and the UK where the risk is not having sufficient skilled people to realise the projects being proposed. Growing tertiary qualified practicing engineers takes time and commitment but without the excitement of the possibility of such a career being seeded in the youth of the world, school leavers won’t be attracted to engineering in sufficient numbers.
In response, one successful model for exciting school children about engineering and science careers is the international F1inSchools Technology Challenge which was created in the UK in 2002 and implemented in Australia in 2003. It is now run in over 300 Australian Schools and 33 countries. In the Australian context, the program is managed and promoted by the Reengineering Australia Foundation. It is supported and fostered through a range of regional hubs, individual schools and some exceptional teachers. Presented in this paper are some perspectives drawn particularly from the Australian experience with the program over 10 years — which by any measure has been outstanding.
The F1inSchools model has been designed specifically through its association with Formula One racing to attract the intrinsic interests of students. It is based on the fundamentals of action learning. Role models and industry involvement are utilised as motivation modifiers in students from Years 5 to 12. While immersing children in project based learning, the program explicitly encourages them to engage with practicing mentors taking them on a journey outside their normal classroom experience. In this program, students have the opportunity to use the design and analysis tools that are implemented in high technology industries. Their experience is one of reaching into industry and creative exploration rather than industry reaching down to them to play in a constrained and artificial school based environment.
Anecdotally F1inSchools has been very successful in positively influencing career choices. With the aim of objectively assessing the impact of the program, doctoral research has been completed. Some key findings from this work are summarized and reported in this paper. The children involved truly become excited as they utilise a vehicle for integration of learning outcomes across a range of educational disciplines with a creative design focus. This enthusiasm flows to reflective thought and informed action in their career choice. As a result of F1inSchools, students are electing to follow engineering pathways and they will shape tomorrow’s world.