Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Praised as “Inspirational” They're Expected to
Scour Local Junk-Yards for Materials and Parts
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, June 16, 2012
Stuart Littlewood looks at the heroic efforts of students in
the besieged Gaza Strip to compete in an international event despite the
sadistic obstructions of the Israeli regime, international cowardice and
sheer bad luck.
Last year engineering students from the Gaza
Strip took on the cream of Europe's technical universities in a competition
to build a race car, despite obstruction by the Israeli regime.
Formula Student (FS) is a challenge to university students around the world
to design and build a single-seat racing car, which they must then put
through its paces at the Silverstone Circuit in the UK.
The aim, of course, is to inspire young
people and boost skills in advanced engineering. Students have to pretend
they’ve been hired by a manufacturing firm to produce a prototype car for
evaluation. As well as technical skills, the exercise teaches management,
marketing and people skills. The motor sport industry regards FS as an ideal
standard of achievement for making the transition from college to workplace.
Uneven playing field
Construction of the car itself has to conform to nearly 30 pages of
stringent rules and regulations. A four-stroke piston engine no larger than
610cc must be used, and this is enough to catapult the car from 0 to 60mph
in just a few seconds. Electric or hybrid vehicles are also allowed. The
cars then go to Silverstone, the home of Formula One racing, to be judged in
a series of tests that include technical scrutiny and an examination of cost
and sustainability, presentation and engineering design. They are also put
through performance and endurance trials on the track.
Class 1 winner was the University of Stuttgart. Stuttgart is home to
Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, so it's no surprise that the University is
renowned for its advanced automotive engineering. The Khan Younis Training
Centre (KYTC) in Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, however, has
no such iconic, cutting-edge benefactors on its doorstep.
The lads from Gaza were entered in
Class 2. They won third prize for their business plan and came ninth with
their financial report. But Israel’s illegal blockade prevented specialty
parts from Italy reaching them and consequently they missed.the deadline for
their design and specification report and were docked a huge number penalty
points. Had they been awarded just an average score for that section they’d
have finished in the top half of the table along with Bath, Budapest, Brunel
After finalizing the plans for the car and identifying
the parts they needed the students contacted various suppliers around the
world, only to be turned down time and again. Eventually a firm in Italy
agreed to help, but when the parts were sent the Israelis refused to let
them into Gaza.
The team had to improvise by salvaging parts from old
cars and machinery. The engine came from a used Honda motorcycle and the
chassis was fabricated with domestic hot water pipes. This and the lack of
sophisticated tools was hardly a recipe for ultimate success. Nevertheless,
their efforts moved Dr Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), which runs the FS competition
at Silverstone, to declare:
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 remarkable.
These students epitomize the
spirit and inventiveness of those who take part in Formula Student.
It was rumoured that the Gaza team would be back this year for another
attempt. After wondering what could be done to give these enterprising
youngsters a bit of a boost while in the UK I made provisional arrangements
for them to tour the factory of Lola Cars, a name synonymous with motor
racing since the 1960s.
But when I was finally able to contact the
Principal of the KYTC, Dr Ghassan Abu-Orf, he said the team couldn’t take
part this year but would definitely do so in 2013.
Those who participated in
the 2011 event were in their final year and already graduated... As part
of our preparation for our 2013 participation, three members of KYTC
staff, including myself, will participate in the 2012 Formula Student
Competition as volunteer judges… Once our participation is confirmed,
the three of us will start seeking sponsorship to cover our mission.
Keep fingers crossed!
Their next attempt, presumably, will require an all-new car and they need
more time. So, building on the lessons from Silverstone last year,
re-jigging the curriculum and learning from judging is surely a wise move.
Who are these amazing youngsters?
"We will do whatever it takes to get this group a great experience
here,” Lola had told me. “We will do a tour for them and it will be a very
educational and fun tour." A kind gesture indeed. What’s more, they’d be
happy to receive staff members of KYTC even if the students couldn’t make
So imagine our great sorrow and disappointment – and the massive
shock to the entire motor-racing world – when Lola announced two weeks ago
that they were going into administration.
This doesn't mean that the
factory is closing. It continues in business with reduced staff and hopes to
find a new buyer. I hear six Lolas are expected to run in this month's Le
Mans 24-hour race.
KYTC was set up by the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2007 to provide training
for Palestinian refugees and inject skilled labour into the local economy.
One of its courses is Autotronics, which includes diagnosis, maintenance and
repair of automotive systems, injection and, ignition systems and
electronics and electrical systems.
The tiny coastal enclave of the
Gaza Strip has been cruelly and illegally blockaded by Israel, with Western
collusion, ever since Hamas won the 2006 elections fair and square and
enforced their right to govern. But the great democracy-preaching powers
have no hesitation in strangling other people’s democracies, such as the
Palestinians,’ if the wrong side is elected. And they use criminal methods
like collective punishment, which itself goes unpunished thanks to our
morally bankrupt international community.
In 2009 KYTC’s first
Autotronics class, frustrated at the lack of workshop materials for hands-on
automotive experience, set about building a race car from recycled parts.
The following year the students went one step further and built a car to the
exacting FS standards, and 11 students eventually travelled to the UK last
summer to test their prized creation.
Who are these remarkable young
people? UNRWA says that many come from the sort of background the United
Nations calls “abject poverty”, which means families who don’t have the
financial resources to provide even the most basic necessities of life.
Fate has dealt them another unkind blow by pulling the plug on Lola's
offer of encouragement, at least for the time being. Let us hope there are
other firms out there at the cutting edge who are prepared to give these
bright and "inspirational" lads from the hellhole of Gaza some eye-popping
insights into automotive engineering excellence – and bring them in from the
Fingers crossed, as the optimistic Dr Ghassan says.
Dr Ghassan emailed to say that the Formula
Student organizers have not selected him and his teaching colleagues as
volunteer judges for this year's event.
So another technology window
to the outside world is slammed on the prisoners of Gaza.