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GP Week : Issue 99
F1 NEWS >> STEVE Walker is now a Graduate Engineer working for Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, but eight years ago he took his first step to achieving his childhood dream of working in Formula One by entering the F1 in Schools competition. Initially he found out about the F1 in Schools competition through a poster on the wall at school and together with a few friends started a two year journey which would end with the team attaining the title of National Post 16 Age Group Champions. Initially, the team had little experience of CAD/CAM engineering processes, but as design engineer Steve grasped the opportunity to develop his technical skills in a role he thoroughly enjoyed. During their first season of competition the team won the 'Best Team Marketing and Sponsorship' award at the Midlands regional heats, but failed to progress to the national finals. "At the time, I felt a huge amount of disappointment with the result, but this inspired me to work even harder to achieve national success," explained Steve. Following months of development, the team returned to F1 in Schools with an improved car and increased professionalism to sweep three regional awards and progress to the national finals. It would be at the 2004 finals where the target laid out two years earlier would be achieved. Taking the confidence gained through the F1 in schools process, Steve successfully applied to Loughborough University to study Automotive Engineering, where he became a member of their Formula Student Team. Steve felt Formula Student was the national progression from F1 in Schools, offering him the opportunity to further develop his skills whilst competing against students from around the world with similar ambitions. "When I first started Formula Student I felt along way out of my depth, but I persevered knowing that the experience could only benefit me," recalls Steve. Following three years of competition Steve became chief designer for the 2008 car and although he stepped back to concentrate on his studies in his final year of university he still played a large role in the design of the 09 challenger. During 2006/07, Steve completed a year's work experience at Nissan Technical Centre Europe. This gave him the opportunity to take all of the skills developed during his studies and apply them to mass market vehicle design. During this time he worked with suppliers throughout Europe and Japan, offering the opportunity to work with people from many different cultures. Steve firmly believes that all his extra-curricular activities aided his academic studies, seeing a significant rise in module grades following his work placement year. All this work culminated in the award of a first class degree at the end of Steve's studies. After successfully passing through two stages of assessment centres at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, Steve was able to embark on the career he had been dreaming about since childhood. Today, Steve wants to act as inspiration by proving that dreams can be achieved if you are willing to work hard for them. As for the future, he wants to help Mercedes-Benz HPE to continue to build on its reputation as the best engine marque in F1 and be an important part of World Championship winning teams in years to come. F1 in Schools -- a case study With the World Final of the unique F1 in Schools competition looming up, GPWEEK looks at a past winner -- Steve Walker 13