More than 150 talented future software engineers aged 11-19, from schools in 16 countries including South Africa, gathered in Abu Dhabi for the Land Rover 4×4 in Schools Technology Challenge world finals.
The competition required that these bright young scholars use computer coding to design, build and programme miniature remote-controlled four-wheel-drive vehicles for a two-day final event which took place at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi.
Each team in the final had qualified through a series of regional and national events in their home country.
Team K-EVO from Portugal were crowned 2017 champions, with team Panthera from Malaysia, and Fair Dinkum 4×4 from Australia, in second and third places respectively. Team Rhino from South Africa, comprising three students from Maritzburg College in Peitermaritzburg, won ‘Best Track Award’.
South African team captain, Bevan Roets, explained, “Two of us competed in the Land Rover 4×4 in Schools Technology Challenge last year and headed to the final this year full of nerves and excitement. We’ve had lots of support along the way and want to encourage more young people to get involved. We all study design, engineering, graphics and other STEM subjects and all want to become engineers in the future.”
The South African team spent ten months and approximately 750 hours working on their project, at the same time juggling exams and revision. They used biomimetics to design their car, imitating elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. The car looks like a rhino, with tyres specially designed with separated spokes which have a special rubber compound for extra grip.
The contest, which supports curriculum learning, included an autonomous car coding challenge, reflecting Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, and a desire to recruit the next generation of engineers to design and develop future electric, connected and autonomous vehicles.
The challenge required the young engineers to optimise an existing set of code to help a model SUV complete the course that wound its way over and through a series of Land Rover Discovery SUVs in the fastest possible time possible.
“The Land Rover 4×4 in Schools competition has broadened our minds and opened our eyes to many new job opportunities and we’re now all passionate about engineering. We’ve had an amazing experience!” said Roets.
Alex Heslop, Director of Electrical Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “I am hugely passionate about engineering and inspiring more young people to consider STEM careers. The Land Rover 4×4 in Schools competition will help us fill exciting future roles in software systems, cyber systems, app development and graphics performance. The new coding challenge is a great way to introduce young people to the importance of software innovation in our cutting-edge business.”
The winning vehicle for the 2017 global final featured multi-link suspension, replicating the Land Rover Discovery, and was made using natural, modern and recycled materials such as biopolymers, plastics and aluminium which were a key consideration in the judges’ scoring.
Alongside this innovative contest, the UK’s leading investor in research and development, Jaguar Land Rover, has launched a global initiative which aims to recruit more than 1,000 electronic and software engineers to its expanding business. In June this year, the company launched an innovative, mixed-reality recruitment app in collaboration with virtual band Gorillaz to find global future engineering talent.
The Land Rover 4×4 in Schools Technology Challenge has reached more than three million young people since 2000.