The ‘Red Kites’ Take Off

On June 10th, six TY students travelled to Belfast to complete in a race called Greenpower F24.

Greenpower F24 is a competition where a team of 11-16 year olds must make an electric car. DCU kindly supplied the school with a frame and parts for the car, which the students had to build and put together themselves. The group had spent the past four months or so going to DCU each Wednesday to work on building the car and preparing it for this event.

With an early start, Donabate’s F24 team  ‘The Red Kites’ arrived at Kirkistown racecourse near Belfast by 8:30. The team consisted of Conor Whyte, Ben Flynn, Aoife Lyster, Beth Kirwan, Sam Carroll and Ethan Holohan. They were in for a long and eventful day with a practice session and two races ahead of them.

The name ‘Red Kites’ was inspired by the the birds of prey in Newbridge Park. Red Kites were nearly completely extinct in Ireland but they have made a comeback in recent years from dedicated conservation. The team decided to call themselves the ‘Red Kites’ to help raise awareness about the endangered bird of prey.

As soon as the team and the car arrived they began making some last minute improvements. The practice session went smoothly with the drivers getting familiar with the course. There was only one hiccup going into the final corner where the car hit the grass and some wood splintered at the rear of the car. The driver, Aoife Lyster, will never live that one down!

After the practice session the team was allowed to fix up the car once again and put in fresh batteries for the race ahead. The race was an endurance test to see which cars could drive the furthest in an hour and a half. There had to be a minimum of three drivers per race.

The first race started with a bang with Ben Flynn completing his three laps and then returning to the pit for a changeover. Unfortunately, just as Ben pulled into the pit the relay in the car blew. The team had to bring the car into their garage and try to replace the relay (relays are switches that open and close circuits of electricity) as quickly as they could so that they could get back in the race. The car was moving faster than before so it seemed the old relay had been damaged. It had turned out to be a blessing that the relay blew when it did, as DCU were on hand to help and they had spare parts.

There was a break between the first and second race where the team made further repairs and improvements. There was a sense of urgency in the air as the other teams worked on their cars. Many had taken them outside so that the motors could cool down. There were many different designs. Some cars were made from aluminium and others had foam and plastic shells. Teams and people were hustling in and out of the pits giving it a lively atmosphere.

The second race began and it was great to see the car holding its own after the breakdown in the first race. The changeovers between drivers were quick meaning they didn’t lose much race time. The car itself was moving a lot faster and smoother due to the relay being replaced, making for an exciting race.

After the race was finished, everyone crowded around to the podium. The winners were announced and as the team prepared to leave a steward came up to Mr. English. He had news that they were not expecting. The ‘Red Kites’ had gotten through to the international final! The staff at the event had forgotten to announce that DCC’s Red Kites had come first in the Republic of Ireland!

The Donabate Red Kites have now qualified for the Greenpower F24 International competition in Rockingham, England in early October.

We’d like to say thank you to our sponsors; Axa, Toyping, KPH Gas, Siemens, Donabate Parents’ Council and Denise Whyte. Without their help and generosity we would have never been able to race. Thank you to Leslie Brooks for transporting the car to Mondello Park for practice in the week before the race and thanks to John Furlong who transported the team up to Belfast.Thank you to the parents who came with us to Kirkistown as well. They helped to supply us with food for the day! We would also like to thank DCU for supplying us with the kit car and for letting us use their workshop. They gave us very useful advice and helped with the mechanics. Lastly, we would like to thank Mr English for his dedication, perseverance and for putting up with us for long periods of time.

Without anyone of these incredible people and generous business’, the ‘Red Kites’ would never have been able to race.

Written by teammates Beth Kirwan and Aoife Lyster.