MANATEE -- Students from India, Germany, Australia and the United States lined their sleek model cars up on the track, ready to race. Months of work went into designing their cars for a moment of truth that would last mere seconds.
Among the competitors were five Manatee County students ready to claim a top place at the F1 in Schools World championships in Austin, Texas.
This week, the student's were tested not only for speed but for their car designs and comprehension of engineering principals.
The Allegiance Racing team of five students from Southeast and Lakewood Ranch High Schools were up for the challenge, capturing second place Wednesday night. They were among 30 teams representing 22 countries that competed.
Team manager and manufacturing engineer Alyssa "Aly" Cote from Lakewood Ranch High School and design and manufacturing engineer Sheel Patel, graphic designer Joseph Komor, design engineer and graphic designer Sean Martin and design engineer and resource manager Merritt Kendzior from Southeast High Schools comprise the team.
Kendzior, a Southeast High School freshman said the months before this week's championship consisted of school, F1 and sleeping, and their dedication paid off.
"I've been learning new programs, meeting new people and have opportunities that I never would have gotten before," Kendzior said. "Doors opened that I never had in mind."
Kendzior plans to become an engineer, possibly for Formula 1 or Lockheed Martin.
The idea behind F1 in Schools is to prepare students for real-world careers in engineering. Students design their cars using computer software and use a computer numerical control (CNC) mill to construct their cars. They must prove they can make identical cars, raise funds to compete, market their team, prepare a 20-page design portfolio, deliver a 10 minute verbal presentation and design and construct a large pit display.
Kendzior said her role on the team is to obtain sponsorships and manage the team's social media pages, as well as aiding in the design process. Her specialty is wheel assembly.
In addition to their second place finish, Cote and Kendzior won the coveted Women in Engineering Award supported by France's FIA Women in Motorsports Commission.
Kendzior said she encourages women to pursue their interests in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
"Definitely, if you have an interest in STEM, go for it," Kendzior said. "It is an amazing career for women. Women can rule the world!"
The Allegiance Racing team won the Outstanding Sportsmanship Award. The award is supported by the Sahara Force India F1 Team.
"When teams would need something, like super glue to fix their cars after a race, we were right there for them with our toolbox and let them borrow openly," Kendzior said, "We were in support of the other teams and wanted them to do just as well, if not better, than us."
Allegiance Racing was nominated for the Best Engineered Car, Best Pit Display and Innovative Thinking Award. The team's C02-powered cars made of lightweight balsa wood raced down a 60 foot track in 1.076 seconds.
Each team had to race its car 10 different times before competing in a knock out round.
The Allegiance Team took home first place at the national competition in Detroit in May. Kendzior said the original Allegiance Racing team had members leave before nationals, and the new team completed the entire project in just three weeks.
The team had more time to prepare this year.
"We are all very proud to be representing the U.S. and very happy to welcome other countries' teams to America for the first time," Kendzior said. "We made new friends who, like us, are into engineering and STEM. We talked and compared notes. I know they will go far in life."
The Allegiance Racing team got a backstage pass to the Circuit of the Americas Formula One Paddock Thursday to be introduced to members of the Formula One race teams who will be competing in the US Grand Prix this weekend.
A1 Racing from Australia came in first place and earned the World Championship crown, and Unlimited Acceleration from Germany finished in third place. The competition started November 8 and ended late November 13.
This is not the first time a Manatee County team has had victory at the F1 in Schools World Finals.
In 2010, Southeast High's UNITUS RACING won the World Finals in Singapore.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.