YOUNG engineers have charged towards the chequered flag in a race at the McLaren Technology Centre.
They also got the chance to meet executive chairman of McLaren Group and McLaren automotive Ron Dennis and Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The youngsters had designed and built their own small, motor-less vehicles for the McLaren Manufacturing Challenge.
Their cars had to carry an object – an egg, representing a driver – across a 10-metre track, and their efforts were timed.
Woking High School came third with a time of 5.35 seconds.
Despite coming first last year, Woking College dropped to second in the rankings – their car clocking a time of 2.51s.
The triumphant team were five pupils from Reed’s School, Cobham, whose car crossed the line in 2.48s.
Fifteen-year-old Connor Ward said: “It’s really cool to have won, but we thought Woking High would win – it was very close.”
Fourteen-year-old Alex Halton added: “It made us nervous having to go first and watch all the others.”
Design technology teacher Keith Ditchburn said: “To be invited to a place like this is inspirational – you could hear the children say ‘wow’ as they walked in. I’ve loved every minute too – I’m a long-time fan.”
The competition was part of the Government’s See Inside Manufacturing campaign to encourage young people into engineering.
Mr Dennis said: “Government has a responsibility to educate – industry has a responsibility to inspire. We feel we have a responsibility to inspire young people.
“Some of these initiatives are focused on different age groups – one being this one, for 14 and 15-year-olds – and it is focused on
young people, so we bring them in and expose them to the excitement of technology.”
Asked why Mr Dennis, who is from Westfield, chose this town as the base for the futuristic McLaren Technology Centre, he said:
“Basically I’m a Woking boy. I like living in this area and I felt there was a good possibility I could find somewhere we could build these facilities and we’ve achieved that.”
Mr Cable said: “A place like this is out of this world really.
“I couldn’t imagine any other corporate headquarters that are quite so attractive to work in.
“Britain has a shortage of engineers – we are a manufacturing country.
“We need engineers and it’s important we start at the beginning with schoolchildren, showing them first of all that there are real career opportunities if they either go through an apprenticeship route or through university – but also that it is really interesting and intellectually stimulating.”
The pupils, representing seven schools and one college, were given a tour of the facilities and met engineer Brad Fincham.
They also met Bernadette Collins who came through the McLaren graduate scheme and works on gearboxes.
Mr Cable spoke of the importance of encouraging young women into engineering.
He said: “People still have this picture of manufacturing as smokestack factories and dirty, noisy machinery, which it isn’t.
“Increasingly people are working on computers in a very attractive environment.
“People also probably saw it traditionally as a thing for men and boys, but it’s not about physical beef.
“The old image of industry of 50 years ago is now totally irrelevant.”