A group of students from UNRWA’s Khan Younis Training Centre (KYTC) in Gaza has created a Formula 1-style car out of mostly recycled parts. The students decided to embark on the project as part of this year’s prestigious Formula Student competition.
Today, after weeks of moulding, sanding, and painting, the students and their teacher ran an official test drive of their car. In just a few weeks, they hope to travel to the Silverstone Circuit, UK to take part in the contest.
One of Europe’s biggest student motorsport events, Formula Student challenges students from around the world to design, build and race a single-seater racing car from scratch. The contest, held this year at Silverstone Circuit, from 14th July until the 17th, serves as a talent-nurturing and recruitment event for companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Shell.
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, said their supervisor, Dr Ghassan Abu Orf.
“They have taken no rest – we don’t have that much time,” he says. “We have to stick to the deadline, and have to be in the UK on time for the competition”.
The team is urgently seeking funding to ship their car and travel to the UK.
Nineteen year old Osama Al Othmani, the team’s leader, said “I just can’t wait for the minute when we finish.”
Creativity under siege
In the week in which the blockade entered its fifth year, the team’s test run gave an insight into the challenges that confront the young and talented in the Strip.
Because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, most of the parts for the car had to be manufactured at the centre’s modest 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 Honda CBR600F4i 2002 bike.
A small number of parts ordered from Italy are still missing, Dr Abu Orf explained, because of the blockade.
In contrast to the international career opportunities offered by the Formula Student competition, economic prospects for young engineers without the opportunity to leave Gaza are bleak. The engineering sector in the Strip has been decimated by the blockade.
Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:
“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.
“These students epitomise the spirit and inventiveness of those who take part in Formula Student.”
Many of the students at the centre are classed by UNRWA as abject poor. Families living in abject poverty generally have an income of 2-3 dollars a day. Yet Osama is incredibly proud of his team – and proud to be a Palestinian refugee living in Gaza.
“We are challenging all the pressures here, and the blockade” he said. “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,” Osama added with a smile. “It will say ‘made in Gaza’”.