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Published: 29 April 2014

Head of STAR Lab joins jury for European Sci-Tech Challenge

Professor Yang Gao has helped to identify some of Europe’s most promising young engineers in a competition challenging teenagers to design a Formula 1 car for the year 2040.

Professor Yang Gao, Head of STAR (Surrey Technology for Autonomous Systems and Robotics) Lab in the Surrey Space Centre, was part of the judging panel in the Sci-Tech Challenge final, which took place on 3 April at the state-of-the-art McLaren Technology Centre in Woking.

Organised by Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise Europe in partnership with ExxonMobil, the Sci-Tech Challenge is aimed at motivating teenagers to consider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) oriented careers by raising awareness of the importance STEM skills and how they can be applied in enterprising ways to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

Over 10,000 students across Europe took part in this year’s Sci-Tech Challenge, which asked competitors to design ‘the safest, fastest and most energy efficient Formula 1 racing car for the 2040 F1 season’. The Sci-Tech Challenge final was the culmination of regional and national heats, and saw 65 students travelling from the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland and Romania to work together in cross-country teams.

Professor Gao was invited to join a judging panel of six experts, which including representatives from McLaren Racing and ExxonMobil. In addition to her extensive experience in developing autonomous system technologies and her active involvement in space mission design, Professor Gao is also passionate about teaching the next generation of professional engineers and was named by The Times Higher Education supplement as one of ten leading young academics in the UK.

“It’s my great pleasure to contribute to the Sci-Tech Challenge which promotes STEM subjects and fosters teamwork among teenager students across Europe,” said Professor Gao. “I’ve been impressed by the high standard of the student teams and their work, which demonstrates innovation and creativity."

Each of the 12 teams competing in the Sci-Tech Challenge final had just 24 hours to develop a unique idea for an F1 car for the future, which they then presented to the judges. After much deliberation, Professor Gao and her fellow judges announced Super8 – a team of four students from France, Italy, Norway and Poland – as the winning team, having been impressed with their innovative ideas based on a solar-powered electric engine.

Edouardo Maria Mollica from the Super8 team said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the Sci-Tech Challenge! As I love physics this was an incredible experience and absolutely inspired me to continue studying science. We mixed well as a team and we worked in an efficient way testing our ideas. Maybe I’ll even be helping out with F1 racing soon!”

Since the Sci-Tech Challenge was launched five years ago, it has enabled over 40,000 students to gain hands-on experience of solving real-world business and energy related challenges through the application of STEM skills.