Teens will be inspired when they look under the bonnet of a space-age rocket car
Richard noble is more accustomed to breaking world records than standing in front of teenagers. In 1983, he broke the land speed record, and since then he has been instrumental in helping others to exceed his own marker. Yet standing at the front of classrooms is now where he often finds himself.
This is because Bloodhound SSC, a 1,000mph land-speed record attempt led by Noble, is now a global education initiative as well as a test of human capability. The Bloodhound car - which is being built in Bristol, south- west England - is being used as the centrepiece for the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) in schools.
The aim is to give students a completely different take on Stem subjects, an area that can often be labelled boring, by making them part of a world record-breaking attempt. And if anything is going to engage students, it is the prospect of seeing a car that looks, sounds and moves like something from the space age.
Students are introduced to the car and the staggering amount of Stem-based work that has gone into its creation. They get an insight into its inner workings and are engaged in solving problems such as how to retrieve data from the car, how to deal with the heat of the desert where the record attempt will take place and even what the driver's helmet should look like. They also get the chance to build their own models using K'NEX building toys or in the form of balloon-powered rocket cars.
Teachers are given access to cross-curricular resources that they can use to enhance and enrich lessons or after-school Stem clubs. In June this year, inspired by the project, one rocket-car club at a secondary school in Hounslow, West London, achieved the Guinness World Record for a model rocket car: an amazing 204mph.
The Bloodhound Project provides a focus on Stem industries that can be lost in traditional teaching. It takes science and technology to the limit, while emphasising the creativity, teamwork and problem-solving skills that make careers in the sector so rewarding. It also introduces new technologies: some parts of the car will be made by additive manufacture (3D printing), a technology that is becoming more common in schools.
The impact of this fresh approach can be substantial. Jess Herbert, who studied at Gordano School in Bristol, wanted to be a marine biologist before the Bloodhound team visited. Now 16, she spoke at the opening of the new Bloodhound Technical Centre in Avonmouth, and is about to embark on a prestigious apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce, fresh from completing her GCSEs. This is the impact that giving students a real-world insight into Stem subjects can have.
Even if the car doesn't break the 1,000mph barrier in its audacious 2015 attempt (although we're sure it will), as long as there are a handful of Jess Herberts who throw themselves into Stem industries after experiencing Bloodhound, our project will have been a success.
Jo Beswick is education animator and ambassador trainer for the Bloodhound Project. She was speaking to Jack Barber. Find out more at www.bloodhoundssc.comeducation
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