Autonomous Vehicle Challenge - 2020 Formula 1 Grand Prix

On 24th of February, the two of us (Do and Vincent) participated in the Autonomous Vehicle Challenge as part of the Driving Learning education program hosted by Formula 1. We were asked to create a PowerPoint to pitch about what features we would add to a winning autonomous car. We researched using a booklet provided by Formula 1 about different sensors and features that we could add to make a winning Autonomous car. When we were done, we submitted our PowerPoint pitch to Formula 1 and hoped for the best. How this challenge works is that one team from each school submits a pitch and then the top 5 primary schools gets chosen to present their PowerPoint at Albert Park itself in front of expert judges.

On the 2nd of March, Mr Tang informed us we were chosen to present our pitch at Albert Park on the 12th of March. After days of rehearsing, the day had finally come where we could go to the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teacher Mr Tang and Christine drove us to the city. Both of us were ecstatic, but the car ride felt so long! We went on a tram and got off at Gate 1 of the Grand Prix. When we got off the tram everyone got off as well for the Grand Prix. When we walked through the gate, we were so enthusiastic that we almost ran off gasping at every stand there!

The first thing we did was to try and find the place we were presenting at, so we knew where to go when it was time. That was tricky though because the map wasn’t easy to read. There were multiple stands and tents with various activities to do. The first stand we went to was called BAE Systems (which was the stand we thought we were presenting at). We did three activities: a paper plane challenge, a Sphero track challenge and a math challenge. The math challenge was hard to solve but, in the end, we succeeded and won a prize. The next stand had two activities. The first one was a pit stop challenge, both of us highly enjoyed it. We had to use an electric screwdriver to take off the bolts and swap the tires in the fastest time possible.

We got the following as our results:

  • Do - 25.864 seconds
  • Vincent - 32.542 seconds

The second activity we did at that stand was a VR (virtual reality) racing simulator where we drove laps around the Melbourne Grand Prix circuit. The VR made it feel like we were really driving, we even had to press buttons behind the steering wheel to change gears. This was Do’s first time trying out VR racing. At about 11:40 we did a rocket launch experiment at a different stand - mixing vinegar and baking soda; the chemical reaction created an explosion that sent the rocket flying. After that we went to the spectator stands to watch the practice laps and eat our lunch. The cars were very loud and so we had to wear earplugs.

Now the time has come. It was 12:30 which meant we had to go to the presentation tent. Two schools presented their pitch before us, then, it was time to present ours. We were nervous and excited but still confident as we walked on stage. First, we introduced ourselves.

“Hi, my name is Vincent”

“And I’m Do”

“and today we are here to enter the Autonomous Vehicle challenge”

But then… the remote (that we had to use to switch slides on the screen) stopped working! We were devastated, but we knew we had to continue the pitch. We talked about the sensors we chose to add to our autonomous car design which included: Lidar, High Powered cameras, Ultrasonic sensors, GPS, GNSS and Radar. As our presentation ended the judges asked us three questions:

“What was the most challenging thing to this presentation?”

“What is the hardest thing about making an autonomous vehicle?”

“Out of the features you described, which of them would be the best to add to a non-Autonomous car?”

We tried our best to answer all three questions and with that, our presentation had finished. In the end, we placed 3rd in our hearts (because the judges didn’t say who came 3rd, 4th or 5th). Before we started to head back to school, Vincent got to try out a Star Wars themed VR game. There was a real-life robot in front of him waving a lightsabre around slowly. The aim of the game was to deflect the robots’ lightsabre and deflect the lasers that were shooting at you inside the VR game. After a long, tiring, but fun day, we were driven back to school. That concludes our Formula 1 Grand Prix experience. Both of us really enjoyed the excursion!

If you are interested in seeing what we did, please watch the video below! Enjoy!


Do and Vincent