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Episode fifteen transcript

The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

Episode 15 – Vroom Vroom - Take a spin with Molly Taylor

 Joachim Cohen:

Welcome to The Virtual Staff Room, a podcast made for teachers by teachers, and all with a dash of educational technology thrown in. My name is Joachim Cohen, and today, like every day, I am joined by two rather awesome members of the Technology 4 Learning team, Linda Lazenby and Yvette Poshoglian. Welcome team.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Hello.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Hello guys.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

So what do we have in store for you today? Well we have a guest who is passionate about two things you might think are polar opposites, climate change and rally racing. Now many of you will have heard of rallying, think fast cars, Bush tracks, and loads of mud. And listeners in Coffs Harbour will be very familiar with Rally Australia, a global event that has graced their back yard. Well today we are excited to be joined by a former Australian Rally Champion, someone who has just won the first round of the Extreme E Racing series in Saudi Arabia. But whilst our guest is all about gasoline and horsepower, she's also passionate about drawing attention to climate change. Sound like oil and water to you? Well not to her. Molly Taylor, former Australian Rally Champion, welcome to The Virtual Staff Room.

 

Molly Taylor:

Thanks for having me, excited to be here.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Now Molly, I know our listeners are dying to learn a little bit more about you. Tell us about winning the Australian Rally Championship and what a day in the life of a rally driver looks like.

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah, it was pretty surreal for me I suppose. Starting rallying, it's always your goal to win your national championship and have it as a profession, to wake up every day and be a rally driver. So I don't think the excitement of that has ever really sunk in to be honest, it still feels just as good as it did the very first day, so I'm very lucky. I mean I suppose a day to day one of the great things is that there's never any day that's the same, really depends on what's going on. And I'm in hotel quarantine at the moment having just come back from Saudi Arabia, so there is a lot of travel. Now with COVID a lot of extra hotel time. And then in between the events a lot of physical training and preparation, as well as then a lot of work with the teams, coordinating various things, planning, working with our sponsors and that sort of thing. So it's very, very diverse day to day activities, but I love every minute of it.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Now we're a technology podcast, Molly. So rally cars, are they very technical or do you just get in and drive like I would my car?

 

Molly Taylor:

No, there's a lot that goes into it. Yeah, so essentially starting from a road car in rally, but with our extreme E cars for example, they're built completely bespoke for the purpose that we're doing. So they're not actually based on any road car. They build essentially a chassis out of a tubular frame and put some body work on it. So yeah, everything from the ground up is designed and developed. And in our rally car we make a lot of modifications from the road car for safety and strength, but also performance as well. And there's lots of things within that development, the way we're continually improving, and adapting, and tweaking, and shooting for every round from the engine performance, braking performance, suspension, handling, the list goes on. It's one of the things that's really exciting about motor sport because you never get to a finish point where you've done everything. There's always, more you can try, more you can improve, or you can develop.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

What are some of the other roles and skills you need, Molly, and your team to get the most out of one of these cars? And also how do you sort of gel as a team and what makes a rally team?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah, the teamwork side is really important. It's normally the drivers that get more of the limelight but it's really a team sport. Because you have putting together a team, getting the sponsorship and the commercial partnerships and things like that in place to be able to fund it. And then you look at building the car, developing the car. You need to have a really good synergy with the driver and the crews. So for the driver to be able to relay what they're feeling in the car, what they think, and then for the engineers and the mechanics to be able to help work with you, to be able to put together the right package, and be able to make those adjustments based on your feedback. Based on their looking at the data of the car and their knowledge as well. So having that cohesion between the whole team is very, very important.

 

Molly Taylor:

And also we're going out and driving at 200 kilometers an hour down a narrow forest road next to trees, and we need to have absolute faith that every nut and bolt in that car is tied, everyone's done their job. So everyone's role is just as critical as the other one in the motor sport team. And I think also the collection of people that are so passionate about motor sport and passionate about what they do, it just creates an awesome... It's a high pressure environment but it's also one that's really full of motivated people that are all there to achieve a common goal. And then in that sense you really become like a family and you spend so much time together. It's important to have that vibe, and when you do it's just, yeah, it's the best place to be.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Wow. I can tell you, I'm getting goosebumps just running all over when I'm thinking about you driving down that road at 200 kilometers an hour, and the whole team's in there with you going, come on, we're going to make it through. And it kind of makes me think a little bit like it's a living and breathing STEM kit you've got sitting out there. You and the team are tinkering with it and building that race winning machine, are we on the right track?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah, 100%. And that's really what it is, everyone's invested in it and you've all got these hopes riding. And it's such a tough sport and it's such a challenge, so you're working so hard and so it just becomes something that means so much to everyone. So yeah, everyone is really emotionally, physically so invested in the performance and you're all kind of on this roller coaster ride together. So you have all the ups and downs like you would in any sport, but yeah, the highs are just the highest high you can ever experience.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And from what you're talking to us about, Molly, rallying is really a sport. And while you're the driver there is that whole team that Joe was just referring to and you did too, about how you go about winning. It's not just the best driver, which is obviously you, but how important is that cohesiveness for your team and to be successful?

 

Molly Taylor:

It's absolutely critical for success. In rally extremely it's a little bit different because we only have one driver in the car at the same time. In rally we have a co-driver next to us, so that relationship, they're basically calling the next corner ahead. So if they say the crest is flat and you're in sixth gear at the limit, and you hear a flat crest, you hold a flat. And you trust that they're in the right spot on their notes and there's not a hairpin just after the corner. So that level of trust is critical because you're fighting for 10 seconds, so you don't have time to hesitate or question anything like that. And then from the team specific perspective as well, having the car that can make all those sense in a performance sense and be fast. And then also having that confidence that everyone has prepared a car that's going to be fast and reliable. So yeah, if one of those factors isn't in line then the whole thing can't come together.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

You should have seen the faces in this room when you said that.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yvette and I had very different faces.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yes. I drive an automatic, so clearly I wasn't understanding of that but I totally get it. And also the fact that you're on a new track each time and you really got to rely on your partners in there with you, you've got a really good sense of that. In terms of that sort of practice are there game-based rally programs that you might use or virtual simulations that you use to help you build those kinds of skills?

 

Molly Taylor:

It's a bit more difficult in rally. We do have some video games that have rally stages and things like that so you can do. And in terms of, I suppose practicing concentration, and reactions, and those sort of skills it's helpful. The difficulty is with rallying so much is on feel. And it's very hard to, you can't replicate exactly what the stage is like. And we do so many different forest roads that can change day to day, let alone event to event. So it's pretty impossible to be able to accurately represent something like on a circuit. It's much more relevant in circuit racing because you can really practice your braking markers learn the tracks and do all those things on simulators, where rally is a lot more by the seat of your pants. So it's not as easy to replicate and something that is much more of a in the moment experience type of thing.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Extreme E vehicles and the Extreme E session? And what's it all about and how the car's different to what we've seen in rallying before?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah, so Extreme E is a completely new series, it's been in development for a couple of years. And essentially it's a combination of trying to provide some revolutionary exciting racing, but also using sport as a platform to be able to inspire positive change and take some positive action against climate change. So essentially we have these custom built 550 horsepower, all electric SUVs. The SUVs are the same for every team, so we all get supplied exactly the same vehicle. We go to five different locations across the world that have already been heavily impacted by climate change. So we've just been to the deserts in Saudi Arabia, we are going to Greenland where some of the glaciers are melting, we're going to the beach at Dakar in Senegal, we're going to the Amazon where there's been a lot of deforestation, and we're going to Patagonia and race the glaciers there as well.

 

Molly Taylor:

So we want to go to locations to really highlight the impact of climate change, but also in those locations whilst we're there we'll be involved in legacy programs as well, which will be taking actions to help combat some of the issues those regions are facing as well. So recently in Saudi Arabia we launched projects with some universities and foundations over there to help restore and protect the nesting grounds for the Red Sea Turtles. So yeah, it's incredible to be able to be part of this project that, it's using sport to be able to use that platform that reaches so many people, to be able to really push the conversation and action against climate change. So yeah, it's exciting racing. And obviously being in this big horsepower electric off-road vehicle is a whole lot of fun to drive, but then you're also there for a larger purpose, which is a pretty cool thing I think.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Molly, It's really mind blowing, because I suppose in the past being linked with rallying is something that may have been seen as the total opposite to climate action, real polar opposites. But with this Formula E Series it's kind of like a perfect match, and you're someone who's extremely passionate about climate action as well, aren't you?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah. I mean I think we all know so much more now about climate change, about the threats and the damage that's being done, and really the necessity to act fast. And I think what's great about these programs is even I'm learning from being involved every day about what the problems are, what the solutions can be, and really having that positive message of we can all be part of the solution. And so being able to not just look on the news and see doom and gloom but to think, well through our sport and through the passion of what we love we can actually help make a difference, and we can also provide ideas and ways in which other people and other fans can also be part of the solution.

 

Linda Lazenby:

And I think solving these problems really would well and truly have any of our teachers hooked. We're hearing kind of what you're doing broader than your driving as well. Some of our students will be obviously chomping at the bit to learn more about how their passions and skills could help them forge a career in motor sport. How could they prepare and how can teachers support them in some of those skills, Molly?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yeah, I think one of the great things about motor sport is that it really is a diverse industry, there's so many facets to it. So obviously from the STEM side and the technology and the engineering, there's always roles in that sense. And a lot of school-based programs in terms of Formula Student and those sorts of things that would make a real racing, I suppose focus. But even from the commercial side, from the marketing side, from journalists, we really have just such a broad spectrum of the industry that I think it's a great thing that people that are passionate about motor sport or enjoy motor sport can really use whatever their skill set is, there's really an application in motor sport.

 

Molly Taylor:

And we also have a program called Girls on Track, run through Motor Sport Australia. So that's a really fantastic one for any females that want to learn more about motor sport. We actually host events at the tracks and at schools so that the girls can come in and see all the different roles from mechanics, engineers, media, driving, all the different aspects of the sport and then get a bit of a taste of it. And yeah, and see what's next.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

That sounds so cool. Fantastic options there for the next gen coming through. Molly, you sort of touched on things that you were doing that are ahead for you and your busy schedule, but what have you got in store for this year and beyond and into next year?

 

Molly Taylor:

Yes, well Extreme E is our main focus for the year. I'm also still working with Subaru Australia here in Australia, and we'll be doing some rallies, the Australian Rally Championship as well as all the other programs and projects we do across all the road car models, which is fantastic. And hopefully I'll be spending a bit more time in Europe at points during the year, just mainly due to the difficulty of traveling at the moment. And so I'm looking at what opportunities there could be in racing over there as well. So it's shaping up to be a very, very busy year. Just also very exciting there's all these new opportunities that didn't exist last year, even. So for any racing driver it's a really exciting time.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Molly, you've just, I think blown all of us away as to what's actually involved in motor sport and how it's evolving and changing with the times. What an amazing and inspirational person I think that you are in leading the way in showing our students how their passions can continue to evolve. Thank you so much. But we haven't prepared you for this last question, and I don't think you've listened to an episode of our podcast, but we ask every one of our guests this question, it's called rocket ship robots. So yeah. Now if you ever listened in to it, there's a famous podcast over in the UK called desert Island Discs, and you have to think what would be the one track you'd take with you if you had to go onto a desert island. But we're a tech podcast, so it's what piece of technology would you take with you if you were on a mission to outer space? What would it be?

 

Molly Taylor:

That's a good question, and I feel like it's a bit boring to say your mobile phone or something that's really, really obvious.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

You wouldn't be alone if you said that, don't worry. A lot of people have said that.

 

Molly Taylor:

I mean I feel like that's the smart choice. If I'm going to say smart, I'm going to say the mobile phone. You can do most things with the mobile phone these days, so that would be a logical talk points. I'm actually looking at where I'm sitting and next to my desk I've got my travel size massage gun. Can I say that?

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Yes, that is the best.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

That's a great one.

 

Molly Taylor:

My muscles are all tight so that's the newest bit of technology that's not a phone.

 

Linda Lazenby:

That is the best idea. And I was just thinking, you're almost living it in your quarantine at the moment. You had to choose what you would take with you and you took that, and I think that's an exceptional idea. I would like one too.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Thank you so much, Molly. You've opened our eyes to the amazing and multifaceted world of rallying. I have a new respect, new and renewed respect for these vehicles, the teams, and of course people like you, their drivers. Super fast, super awesome computers on wheels, and Molly, you are one amazing programmer, driver, problem solver, and more. Thank you so much for speaking with us here in The Virtual Staff Room.

 

Molly Taylor:

Thanks for having me.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

So Linda and Yvette, what a technical sport rally and motor racing is. What did you learn today?

 

Linda Lazenby:

I think I was really able to understand, I suppose the complexities involved in getting that car on the road. I think for the outsiders and those of us that are not into rally car racing normally, I thought car went on track, driver drove, end of. But there's some really critical parts in there and things that I think would be interesting for students to, I suppose, unpack what skill sets are needed to get that team going. And I thought Molly spoke about it really well.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I love her Girls on Track program that she's affiliated with. Because I just wonder out there how many students are seeing somebody like her and going, I could do this, and here are the skills I need. I mean, if I felt like that I know that there are going to be students out there that are really intrigued by the potential for combining a variety of skills to be on the worlds stage, and actually to be at the very top of the worlds stage, in such a dynamic field. I mean it's intense what they do, and to meet someone at that level and to have a chat with Molly was just awesome.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. What an amazing role model for young women and young men as well I think.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah. And Joe, I know you're nuts about cars. So what's your takeaway from this in terms of the bespoke E cars that they're using? Really intriguing.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Yeah. I know, I was blown away by the sound of how much power they've got, the silence. That we were speaking to Molly after the podcast and heard how they're completely silent, almost anyway. And it's a hard thing to be able to navigate when you can't hear anything. But what stood out to me is number one, the way motor sport is actually evolving. So it's like everything we do inside the classroom is evolving and changing, so is motor racing changing to keep pace with the times. We're not going to be able to use internal combustion engines forever, and our students need to be made aware of these new types of technologies and the opportunities that they have, and the impacts that they have. Because I found that that link to climate action and climate change really compelling. This is a way we can continue to enjoy these things we love, but at the same time protect the amazing universe that we have.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I can't think of another sport that's actually in partnership really with those kinds of goals, unless I'm mistaken. But it's really not about that, so I thought that was a really really cool-

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, they're polar opposites.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, absolutely. Wow, we learned heaps today.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Now maybe you were considering how you might be able to tap into your student's passion for wheels and motor racing at the same time as develop being future-focused skills. Team, what are some of the amazing resources you have discovered? What have we got to share?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Well in terms of specific resources, I'm wondering where the students could be a bit more discovery in kind of building their own car using some of our Lego, and just really consider what the needs of the robot might be.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

I really like that one, absolutely. Building it for, when you think about the constraints of rallying, it's got to have ground clearance and those kinds of things. Maybe they can have a test track or something like that for them to roll over and control. Exciting. Or if it's Formula One it's got to be low down and really sleek.

 

Linda Lazenby:

There clearly all the bits that I don't have enough knowledge about, Joe. But thanks for filling in the blanks.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

How about you, Yvette?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look, I am going to do a cross promo. I'm sorry, I know we did speak about this, but there is such a cool new issue of T4L Kids magazine, which is actually touching on some of these issues we've discussed today. It's the science issue, it's just out. And essentially it's going to get students investigating a cause in their own neighborhood and taking charge. Having a cause, finding solutions, and then using tech to actually quantify data and provide a solution with your chosen audience. So it's actually getting kids to be mini Greta Thunberg's. Go out there kids, solve a problem, make something happen, and share that message out. So I think it's a fantastic edition of the magazine, and I think it's wonderful if you want to give it to students as an independent resource in the classroom, or work with them on this design challenge that's included in this issue together. So that's me, what about you, Joe?

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Well I've been perusing the Minecraft education edition website, and I came across this series of e-sports challenges. And their focuses is really on that team building side of things that Molly was talking about, where it's a shift away from personal projects that you normally do in Minecraft, to a series of collaborative build battles. So there's loads of guiding questions for teachers, some awesome resources for building those teams skills that Molly did identify as being so crucial, but at the same time developing key STEM skills around 3D design. And yes, using the structure block in Minecraft students can even 3D print their designs afterwards if they want to. So one to check out.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Sounds really good.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

So while we often have the last word in our podcast, from now on we want to give you a voice. And so to close this out, here's a little gem of techno wizardry wisdom, and we're lucky enough today to be joined by another ICT leader in a New South Wales public school.

 

Speaker 5:

Hello teachers, it's Bahia Malas, an English teacher from Blakehurst High School. One of the tips that I would like to share with you today is one that many teachers have found really helpful, especially with efficiency and time management. So if you use Google Classroom as your learning platform, I highly encourage you to use the schedule functionality that's embedded in the platform itself. So if you have your content and material ready to go that you would like to share with students, go to the classwork tab. On the left-hand side you'll see the plus create tab, click on that one. And then upload all the content or material that you like. And then on the right hand side it will give you the option either to publish or schedule, you click on schedule and you pick the date that you'd prefer to have your work published. Again, this will save you a lot of hassle and time from posting on the day when you have all the classes. Especially if you oversee different classes, this will also be a great time saver.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

So Yvette and Linda, did you learn something today?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I want to be a rally car driver. That was awesome, Molly blew me away.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yeah, and I might need to learn a bit more about rally car driving.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. And in more ways than one she's a trailblazing guest, I think Molly Taylor. So we're lucky to be joined by her that's for sure. It made me think of the many and varied ways STEM infuses all aspects of our lives. So an amazing opportunity for us and for all of you out there we hope too.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Just a little note, please be aware that all views expressed by the podcast presenters, that's us, are our personal opinions and not representative of the New South Wales Department of Education. Discussions aren't endorsements of third party products, services or events. And please note that as much as we sound like it, we are not experts in legal ease, tech speak, or anything in between, we're just passionate people keen to boost technology for learning in the classroom, and to help build the skills in your students, and for you to solve the problems of tomorrow. Do your due diligence, read further, and if we've got something wrong let us know. We too are always learning and always improving.

 

 Joachim Cohen:

This podcast has been produced by the masterful Jacob Druce, with the assistance and supreme coordination of many awesome members of the Technology 4 Learning team. Before we go, please make sure you send us through your comments, your word of techno wizardry wisdom, and your thoughts for new guests and segments. And if you like the podcast, give us a rating so more and more educators find us and be inspired to get a little techie in the classroom. Stay compassionate, stay curious, get creative everyone, and thanks for joining us.