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  4. Life in the Fast Lane

When you think of Formula 1, you probably don’t think of engineering, aerodynamics, economics, marketing, and design yet these are just a few of the components that go into building the sleek race cars that characterize the sport. Andrew Denford an engineer and CEO of Denford, Ltd saw the potential of Formula 1 to serve as a comprehensive STEM learning experience for kids, and, in 2004, he founded the F1 in Schools technology challenge, currently the world’s largest STEM competition with 46 countries participating (Denford). In July 2019, a team of three courageous St. Stephen’s students formed Mercury Racing, the first Italian team to ever participate in the F1 in Schools World Finals, without the practice and experience of regional or national competitions as there was no other Italian team to compete with. After just four short months of preparation, they boarded a plane to Abu Dhabi for the weeklong F1 in Schools World Finals where they competed against fifty-four teams from twenty-two countries, most of whom had already been working together for two to three years.

Each participating team of three to six students designs and builds miniature cars that compete against cars made by other teams. Like a real Formula 1 race, the competition itself lasts only a few seconds and computers time the cars and the reaction time of the drivers from the moment of their launch to the moment they cross the finish line. 

Just like Formula 1, Formula 1 in Schools cars must adhere to strict guidelines -- 21 pages of specifications, to be exact. Racing a car is just a small part of the weeklong F1 Schools competition. Mercury Racing designed their car using Fusion 360 a professional-level 3D design CAD program and ran their car through a virtual wind tunnel. After virtually testing their car, they sent the files to London to be cut because they could not find suitable equipment in Rome. Once the final car was assembled, the students airbrushed the car themselves. But the preparations didn’t stop there.

Student participants are also in charge of their own marketing and fundraising. To prepare for this competition, Mercury Racing, made up of Tommaso, Marco and Valerio, 12th, 11th, and 10th graders respectively, created a website, several social media accounts, and uniforms. The team had extra organizational and development support in Rome from Nadya, a 10th grader, and Dialta, a senior. In the months leading up to the World Finals, they cold-called long lists of potential sponsors and wrote lengthy engineering and enterprise portfolios. Finding sponsors proved to be their biggest problem, primarily because there is no tax deduction for charitable donations in Italy. Tommaso, the Team Manager, recalls that, after participating in the F1 in Schools regional competition in London two years ago, the team began preparing to compete in Singapore in 2019 but had to abandon their plans when they ran out of funding. This financial setback only made Tommaso more determined to compete at the World Finals this November; in Tommaso’s words, “every since the London regionals, I’ve wanted to represent Italy at the World Finals.”


Despite the challenges, out of fifty-four teams, Mercury Racing was the only new team nominated for an award, finishing as the first of three nominees for the Judge’s Award. The judges were particularly impressed with the team’s commitment to sustainability. While many teams ship materials from all over the world, the St. Stephen’s Team brought their equipment in their suitcases and threw nothing away, choosing to keep and recycle everything they brought with them. 

To participate in the World Finals, the teams have to bring an extraordinary amount of equipment including all the trappings for their professional pit displays which feature videos and team swag such as logoed pencils, mugs, and t-shirts, as well as an 11 page long enterprise portfolio with marketing information, media, and the team’s logo which last year’s St. Stephen’s team designed for the 2018 F1 Schools London regional competition where they won the Judges Award. 

Mercury Racing had never tested their car before they arrived on Yas Island, home to Abu Dhabi’s F1 race track and Ferrari World which boasts the fastest roller coaster in the world. The F1 in Schools World Finals are always held at an F1 racetrack and coincide with a Formula 1 event.  

 Mercury Racing arrived in Abu Dhabi on Friday and registered several copies of their car along with copies of spare tires and the front and rear wings, which they had 3D printed in the St. Stephen’s iLab. These are the only spare parts they are allowed to use to repair any car damage during a race. The cars are scrutineered for specification penalties and for safety, and repairs must be done in front of a judge with only the supplies on hand in a limited time. At one point, the car of a team from Mexico disintegrated during a race against Mercury Racing, so the team gave them a tube of instant super glue. It took the entire tube to put the car back together so they could race in the next heat. They competed on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On Tuesday, they received feedback from the judges. The team had to present their car and design process over and over again (five times, to be exact) and they interviewed multiple times in formal and informal settings. In the evening, the St. Stephen’s team dined at the house of former Dean of Students/Learning Center Director/Art Teacher, and beloved boarding faculty member, Fiona Stewart and her family. On Wednesday, the teams had the morning off while the judges tallied their votes, so Mercury Racing and several other teams enjoyed Ferrari World, examining historic F1 cars and a few roller coasters as well. In the late afternoon, 13 charter buses filled with students, coaches, and judges circled the Yas Marina Circuit where the real F1 races would begin the next day. The awards dinner that evening was held on the F1 circuit itself, and the student teams were joined by F1 drivers, mechanics, and other F1 celebrities. The First Place was handed out by Nico Rosberg himself, the most celebrated driver in recent F1 history. The winning team, Evolve from the UK, had been working together since 2016! The judges were stunned that the St. Stephen’s team (represented in Abu Dhabi by Tommaso and Valerio, making them the only two-man team at the competition due to Marco’s illness) had managed to pull together in four months what most teams accomplish in two or three years. 

The next morning, the students were able to tour the F1 pit stops and watch the crews prepare the cars for the next day’s races. Mercury Racing even had the opportunity to meet Charles LeClerc who took third in the Formula 1 World Finals for Ferrari. On Friday, the teams were offered discounted tickets which provided them exclusive access to the center of the Formula 1 circuit while the drivers ran practice laps. For Valerio, this was one of the week’s highlights; in his words, “watching the "Free Practice" live, as well as the pitlane walk the prior day: they were both once-in-a-lifetime, unique experiences which gave us a much more personal look at the world of Formula 1, from the teams to the races themselves.” Later that evening, the group visited Abu Dhabi’s stunning Grand Mosque before boarding a 3 am flight back to Rome. 

Rather than being discouraged by the challenges of creating Italy’s first F1 team, Valerio, Tommaso, and Marco were excited by the opportunity. According to Valerio,  the team’s lead engineer and resource manager, “I wanted to participate in the competition because it was a completely new experience, based on something I wanted to explore --engineering -- but didn’t have the time or the resources to explore… The Mercury Racing team, for the World Finals, was officially created in July of this year, which only really left us four months to do everything: from branding to engineering to our social media. This meant that we utilized a great deal of project management to finish in time, while also gaining experience and familiarity with new software in every conceivable field: from design to aerodynamics to graphics. I had worked on similar-ish projects before, namely the RoboMed robotics competition, but this was a completely different and more intensive spin on every aspect of that, and I'm glad we managed to make it in such a short time.” 

The team’s coach, Elizabeth Di Cataldo is Director of the Library, Educational Technology, and the iLab at St. Stephen’s School and was recently named a Google Education Innovator, one of only two in Italy, joining a group of 2,200 Google Education Innovators worldwide. As the In-Country Coordinator for Italy, Ms. Di Cataldo can select up to three Italian teams to send to the F1 in Schools Worlds Competition. At the moment, St. Stephen’s is the only Italian F1 School participant, but Ms. Di Cataldo hopes that the team’s success in Abu Dhabi will inspire other Italian teams to join them next year. According to Ms. Di Cataldo, “I really love this full STEM challenge because it doesn’t just cover science, technology, engineering, and math but also requires environmental and economic skills and public speaking, social media, and marketing expertise. We hope that by bringing the F1 challenge to Italy that other students will have this wonderful opportunity to expand their interests in such an enriched program. F1 in Schools is an incredibly well-run challenge globally thanks to the many adults who volunteer their time as judges, administrators and coaches, and the kids are incredibly enthusiastic.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Di Cataldo hopes to repeat a trip she led just a couple of years ago to Maranello, where St. Stephen’s students had the opportunity to attend a special workshop at the Ferrari museum which has expressed interest in supporting F1 in Schools in Italy. Ms. Di Cataldo looks forward to continuing to grow the F1 program at St. Stephen’s, providing students with a unique opportunity to explore and expand their skills in STEM, design, public speaking, and presentation.

Environment After CoVid 19
Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Opinion: A New Perspective on the Environment After CoVid-19

There are ducks in the Barcaccia, dolphins inquisitively approaching Italian harbors and weeds colonizing urban spaces where human feet no longer tread: nature reconquering lost spaces is one of the short-term effects of this pandemic.

By Jan Claus Di Blasio, Gardens and Sustainability Coordinator

Some Notes from Isolation1
Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Some Notes from Isolation

Who else has begun to think of their lives as divided into the BC (Before Covid) and DC (During Covid) eras? Oh, those simple things we took for granted: catching some fresh air during a short afternoon walk in the park. Having a coffee at the corner bar. A long, leisurely weekend lunch with a friend. A spontaneous decision to go and see a movie. For that matter, a spontaneous decision merely to go and pick up milk and laundry soap at the grocery store.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

I’m 15 and Quarantined in Italy—You’d Be Surprised What I Miss

I was in Latin class when the Italian government announced the closure of schools two months ago.

By Anthony Avallone '23
romance corona
Chapter 1: The World Around Us

Romance in the Time of Coronavirus

Right-wing populists are romantics. I know; that sounds strange. You probably imagine romantics staring out over misty moors, their hair blowing at an attractive angle, but make no mistake—Orban, Trump, Bolsonaro, Salvini, Le Pen? They’re romantics too.

By Jen Hollis - Former St. Stephen’s IB History Teacher
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Chapter 1: The World Around Us

How a Virus Interrupted the Daily Routine at a Day and Boarding School

On Thursday, March 5th 2020, an unusual silence settled into the hallways, classrooms, and dorm rooms of St. Stephen’s School.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Winners of the Keats-Shelley House Poetry Contest

In May, two St. Stephen’s students, Leila El-Zabri and Isabella Todini, won both of the prizes in the Upper School category of the Keats-Shelley Poetry Contest. This year’s judge was Jackie Kay, award-winning poet, author, and the current Scots Makar (the Scottish Poet Laureate). Ms. Kay was extremely impressed with the technical facility and emotional depth of our students’ work.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Creative Writing

Ms. Egan is proud to present work that has been done in her Creative Writing Classes in the Fall and Spring Semesters. Enjoy!

red dragon
Chapter 2: Creative Writing

Children of the Red Dragon

By Ilaria Chen, Grade 10
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Chapter 2: Creative Writing

The Golden Children

By Sofia Ghilas '21
Chapter 4: Fall Trips 2019

Fall School Trips 2019

Welcome to our interactive Fall trips 2019 photo galleries. Click the albums for a visual journey through our adventures!

Chapter 3: Short Stories in Italian | Italian language

Viaggio intorno alle nostre camere

By Rossano Astremo - IB Italian Teacher
trips 2020 cover
Chapter 4: Fall Trips 2019

Why We Take School Trips

When students enter St. Stephen’s as 9th graders, they will attend eight trips in the course of their career. Trips are an integral part of our identity, and one of the most frequently cited distinctions when Head of School Eric Mayer speaks with parents and students.

By Cortile Staff Writer
Chapter 5: Departments | Molecular Genetics

Molecular Genetics, a Flagship Program

The Molecular Genetics program at St. Stephen's was introduced in 2018 in partnership with Adamas Scienze as a five-year initiative. Adamas Scienze is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy that specializes in bringing university-level science to high school students.

By Fiona Leckie - Science Department Chair, Chemistry Teacher
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Chapter 5: Departments | Classics, The Lyceum

An Archaeology for the Five Senses: A Lyceum Evening

On Monday evening, a group of students, teachers, alumni, and friends of St. Stephen’s gathered in the library to explore the sights, sounds, and, most importantly, the smells of Ancient Roman cities with Ann Kolosky-Ostrow, a Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Brandeis and recent Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Rome.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
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Chapter 5: Departments | International Baccalaureate (IB)

The Benefits of an IB Education

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is well respected and globally recognized as a very intensive, yet highly rewarding academic programme which is offered in high schools, like St. Stephen's. If you wish to pursue higher education in Europe, such as in the UK, Germany, or Finland, then the IB will be incredibly beneficial towards taking your first steps into university.

By David Rosales '16
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Chapter 5: Departments | Classics

Discovering Our City with the City of Rome Class

One of St. Stephen’s’ signature courses, Roman Topography, got an upgrade this year. The new course is called City of Rome. In the past, students were required to take either Roman Topography or Latin 1. Beginning in Fall 2019, all ninth graders take City of Rome and choose between three classical languages: Latin, Classical Greek, or Arabic.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
cortile sofia peng
Chapter 6: Student Life | Student Ambassador Program

Hi, I'm Sofia Peng, and I am a Student Ambassador!

I think that being a Student Ambassador made me grow so much. As a student, I concentrated mainly on my academics, yet I was never a talkative and outgoing person at school because I thought I wasn't a fluent English speaker. As it is not my first language, I have never really managed to speak comfortably around people other than my friends without feeling nervous about being judged. I always had a hard time dealing with my self-esteem and I doubted myself.

By Sofia Peng '22
Chapter 6: Student Life | Students Love Tech!

The iLab is the Place to Be at St. Stephen’s!

I think it would be safe to say that the Innovation Lab, the ILab for short, is my favorite place in the entire school. It allows for anyone with an interest in tech, design, or anything similar to enjoy themselves while also learning at the same time and pushing themselves beyond what they thought they were going to be able to do, ever.

By Valerio Pepe '22
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Chapter 6: Student Life | Students Love Tech!, Formula 1

Life in the Fast Lane

When you think of Formula 1, you probably don’t think of engineering, aerodynamics, economics, marketing, and design yet these are just a few of the components that go into building the sleek race cars that characterize the sport.

By Natalie Edwards '14 - RA and Dean's Office Assistant
cortile smalling
Chapter 6: Student Life | Student Clubs, Chris Smalling

Tackling Inequality

AS Roma defender and Manchester United legend Chris Smalling was invited to talk to students of St. Stephen's School about equality in sports, his vegan diet, and, of course, football, on 2 December 2019.

By Laith Zehni '20
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Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, 2020

Again this year, St. Stephen’s Creative Writing teacher Moira Egan is delighted to present the work of her students, who achieved wonderful success in the Scholastic Art & Writing Competition for 2020. This year, students in Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 garnered 10 Honorable Mentions, 6 Silver Keys, and 2 Gold Keys.

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
Grade 9 award
Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
Grade 10 award
Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 7: Scholastic Writing Awards

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards 2020

By Moira Egan - Creative Writing Teacher
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Chapter 8: The Arts

Winter Arts Show

Enjoy a visual showcase of our Winter Arts Show highlights.

By Luigi Fraboni - Photography Studio
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Chapter 9: Alumni | Alumni Spotlight

The Next Frontier in Health Care: A Review in Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine (RM) is an emerging and very exiting multidisciplinary field aimed at restoring, maintaining or enhancing tissue and, consequently, organ functions.

By David Rosales '16
Wahiba Sands
Chapter 9: Alumni | Alumni & Friends, Health & Wellness

Alumni & Friends in Oman

Our fearless leader Dr Helen Pope lead in October our 5th edition of Alumni & Friends Trip. A group of 10 alumni followed Dr Pope in Oman, The Land of Frankincense.

By Cortile Staff Writer
Chapter 9: Alumni

DC, NY & Boston Alumni Events

Images from St. Stephen's Alumni events across the North East last Fall.

Painting by Cate Whittemore 1972
Chapter 9: Alumni | Class Notes

Class Notes

Welcome to our first-ever digital 'Class Notes.' Enjoy the posts and images collated by Class Ambassadors from their respective years!