Back in January of this year, I received a passionate message from a lady and her son who connected with me on LinkedIn. In their note, they shared that a group of young boys and girls came together to build their own miniature car and compete against several other schools in the New York/Tri-State area. I couldn’t help but think how amazing this was and to make it even more special, the lady, who I later spoke with, was Jamaican and her son is of Jamaican descent. Now honestly, it wasn’t purely about Jamaican pride, it was more about the fact that they presented to me a great story about a diverse group of children, pre-teens, who came together to achieve something that could be potentially life-changing. At a time when there are so many negative stories about our youth, it was outstanding to hear such a positive story.
Their story began together at the tender ages of 2 years old; siblings Kelsey, 12 years old, and Julian Fontenot, 11 years old, along with Jordan Chamberlain, 12 years old, and Amira “Jehnoi” Walcott, 12 years old, met at daycare and have been close friends to this day. As individuals, they each have their own passions and talents. Kelsey, a 7th grader, plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse, is a National Junior Honor Society member and is on the Principal’s List. Julian, a 6th grader, enjoys art classes, drama, singing in the choir and video games. He is also an active member of his student council, where he is involved in the Book Buddy Program. Jordan plays basketball, football, and baseball and participates in a robotics club. He also plays the xylophone 4 days a week. Then there is Jehnoi, the tallest of the group, a National Junior Honor Society member, a reporter for her school newspaper and a member of her school’s drama club. These four, uniquely talented young people, seized an opportunity to come together and compete in New York’s first F1 in Schools program. F1 in Schools is the only global multi-disciplinary challenge in which teams of students aged 9 to 19 deploy CAD/CAM software to collaborate, design, analyze, manufacture, test, and then race miniature compressed air powered balsa wood F1 cars.
I am sure you can remember how excited you were as a child when you had the chance to get a race car set with tracks, put it all together and race them with friends. Well, imagine how you would feel if you could build your own miniature car. You’re probably thinking, “their parents made them do it” right? Wrong. I had the chance to meet and speak with each of these young people and I can tell you that they are each very intelligent, articulate, focused and driven and make an amazing team. Kelsey has the job of Team Manager and Design Engineer; Julian is the Manufacturing Engineer and Graphic Designer; Jordan is the Marketing Manager and Jehnoi is the Resource Manager and Graphic Designer. The expression “Teamwork makes the dream work” fits perfectly for these Dream Racers, which is the name of their team.
When Jordan and his mother, Tasheka Myers, reached out to me on LinkedIn, I had no idea what I would be experiencing when I attended the competition on Saturday, April 1, at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan. Each parent involved was filled with pride as they talked about their child and what they had accomplished, and each parent knew their role was to just be a cheerleader and not get too involved. The Dream Racers had it all under control. They worked with a team of people who helped them design and build their miniature car and even dealt with some last-minute problems the night before the competition. They had to shave the car down in size so it would be able to fit and run smoothly along the tracks come race time. I watched with excitement, as if they were my own children, as they prepped their car for the race. I tried to capture the race on camera, but my shutter speed just wasn’t fast enough to get an image of their car racing down the track. One major point to note is that every other team they competed against was older and more experienced than the Dream Racers, yet they prevailed. They had the most professional appearance, the best booth, and a great presentation. Each team member showed a strong commitment to their role and responsibilities and never lost their excitement.
In the end, the Dream Racers won the top prize for R&D (Research & Development) and placed 3rd overall for the regional competition, qualifying them to compete at the Nationals in Austin, Texas, June 8 – 10, 2017. To their supporters and cheerleaders aka their parents; Yvette Reyes, Tasheka Myers, Verna Vasquez, Alaric Fontenot and Robert Chamberlain, congratulations on a job well done.
For more information on these amazing young students, visit their website, www.f1dreamracers.com. If your children are interested in participating in the F1 In Schools competition in 2018, visit their website at www.f1inschools.com for more information.