PALMETTO, Fla. — At a time when most teenagers are simply dreaming of getting a set of keys to their first car, nine kids from Florida have just won a national championship for their innovative miniature car designs. 

Students from the University of South Florida and Southeast and Palmetto high schools combined their skills to create a scaled-down version of a Formula 1 racing team.

“I’m very proud of our team and its accomplishments,” said Elizabeth Casadonte, a freshman at Southeast High.

The students who range in age from high school freshman to college freshman, competed in Austin, Texas against seven other young F1 teams in February. 

P1nnale won five first-place trophies in Austin and were named National Champions.

The students did all the engineering, marketing, including social media, and fundraising required to sponsor the team. The P1nnacle Racing team raised more than $16,000 for the competition.

“I thought it was really easy,” said Southeast freshman Arianna Longo, who served as the team’s enterprise resource manager. “I thought running a business was really easy but now I see it takes a lot of patience to run a business.”

Each team member served a specific role. Jaxson Bunes (USF freshman), Hunter Raley (Palmetto sophomore), and Sammy Slovak (Palmetto sophomore) worked on the engineering and design of the cars. Jay Kendzior (Southeast sophomore) served as Team Manager. Eleanor Hopkins (Palmetto freshman) did graphic design. Casadonte and Hayden Simon (Southeast sophomores) both worked on enterprise support. Abby Owens (Palmetto junior) handle social media accounts.

“It’s a learning experience and being able to bring my designs to a higher level,” said Hopkins, who hopes to combine her graphics design and engineering interests into a career. “We practiced about a half-million times.”

According to its website, F1 in Schools, the overseer of the competition, is an international STEM competition for school children, in which groups of three to six students have to design and manufacture a miniature car out of the official F1 Model Block using CAD/CAM design tools. More than 20 million students in over 40 countries have competed in competitions since F1 in Schools' inception in 2004.

“The front wing and the rear wing are made of PLA plastic from a 3-D printer,” said Raley. “We used CNC mills and CNC lathes to construct the cars.”

P1nnalce impressed judges with the sleek look of its car(s), which they were able to get up to 48 miles per hour on a straight, 66-foot track. The cars are powered by CO₂ cartridges and are attached to a track by a nylon wire.

“The car goes down the track in about one second,” said Raley. “If you blink you’ll miss it.”

Next, the teens wait to hear the location of the F1 In Schools international competition. It’s expected to be held in Abu Dhabi in November.

“257 days,” said Hopkins. “Not that we’re counting.”

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