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Year 6 pupils journey into Space!


Year 6 pupils at The Blue Coat School, Birmingham, returned for a Summer term with a difference. Working with hi-impact consultants, they began to plan Blue Coat’s first foray into space!

This exciting adventure involved the children in flight prediction using algorithms, Craft design including slow motion crash testing, creating a temperature sensor with Arduino computers, mission patch design, and even a live webinar with Dr Steve Croft, an Astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.  

The children were challenged to devise a Science experiment to send up into space, thinking about what might happen to their chosen substance under different atmospheric conditions. The selected experiments were sent up on the payload inside ping pong balls, and included ooblek (which has properties of both solids and liquids), a watch, cress, a saxophone reed, bubble wrap and litmus paper.  Photographs of the Headmaster and Year 6 children also went onboard Blue Coat's first space mission!

During the week-long Space School, a tethered balloon launch on the school field demonstrated to pupils the size of balloon that would be launched at the end of the week and the type of images that the 360-degree camera would be able to capture.  Even the youngest nursery children came out to share in the excitement.

A small group of Year 6 pupils travelled to Welshpool in Shropshire to launch the balloon with cameras and scientific equipment attached, in an attempt to find out what Near Space looks like. Back at School their friends and staff were manning Mission Control and monitoring progress via a live video link from the launch site.  

10, 9, 8, 7, 6….. the countdown began. The balloon was launched into space and Mission Control waited to pick up a signal on the tracking software. With a brief stop for lunch the retrieval party then climbed onboard the school minibus which set off in hot pursuit! Fortuitously, the predicted flight path was roughly in the direction of the journey back to Birmingham.  Approximately one and a half hours later the children were able to locate their balloon as it returned to Earth, landing in a field just outside Hungerford. Miraculously all the scientific equipment and cameras had survived the journey intact, and pupils eagerly opened up their ping pong experiments to see the results of their space adventure. The images later downloaded from the 360-degree camera were extraordinary, Earth from over 30 km above its surface is truly beautiful.

Headmaster, Noel Neeson was delighted with his School’s first space mission and commented, “After the hard work the children have put into their 11 exams, ‘Space School’ was a great way to welcome our Year 6 pupils back for their final term at Blue Coat. The children are naturally inquisitive and have really enjoyed designing their own experiments to send up to Near Space, as well as exploring the science of balloon flight. I’m sure this will be an experience that will stay with them for a long time to come. Who knows, we might even have a future astronaut or astronomer amongst them!” 


Published: May 4 2017

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