Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gaza: ‘Made in Gaza’ - school students make Formula 1-type car to race in Europe

Because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, most of the parts for the car had to be manufactured at the centre’s workshop

UN - A Formula 1-style car built by students in a United Nations-run school in Gaza from mainly recycled parts is getting ready to enter the Formula Student auto race in the United Kingdom in a demonstration of determination and creativity in one of the world’s most disadvantaged places.

After weeks of moulding, sanding, and painting, a group of students in the Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC), run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and their teacher ran an official test drive of their car today.

They hope to travel to the Silverstone circuit in the UK next month to participate in this year’s Formula Student contest, which challenges youngsters from around the world to design, build and race a single-seater racing car from scratch.

The contest, to be held from 14-17 July, serves as a talent-nurturing and recruitment event for companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Shell.

The team is urgently seeking funding to ship their car and travel to the UK.

With financial support from Bank of Palestine, Pal Tel Group Foundation and Al Quds (Jerusalem) Bank, the Khan Younis team have been working round the clock in preparation for the competition, according to the supervisor, Ghassan Abu Orf.

“They have taken no rest – we don’t have that much time,” said Dr. Abu Orf. “We have to stick to the deadline, and have to be in the UK on time for the competition.”

In the week in which Israel’s blockade of Gaza entered its fifth year, the team’s test run gave an insight into the challenges that confront the young and talented in the Strip.

As a result of the blockade, most of the parts for the car had to be manufactured at the centre’s workshop. For the engine, the team had to buy an old motorcycle to use its engine. The car now boasts an engine originally intended for a motorcycle. A small number of parts ordered from Italy have still not been delivered because of the blockade. Gaza’s engineering sector has virtually ground to a halt because of the closure.

“It really is inspirational to see a team working so hard with the odds stacked against them like this. Formula Student is a massive challenge in its own right, but to be working with almost entirely recycled parts in one of the most deprived areas in the world is absolutely remarkable,” said Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Osama Al Othmani, the students’ team leader, said: “We are challenging all the pressures here, and the blockade. We want to prove to the world that even if we are living on nothing, we can still create something from it! The last thing we will do is to stick on the label. It will say ‘made in Gaza’.”