Science and Maths - Bullet car to rally next generation

24th October 2008 at 01:00
Inspiring project for young scientists

The creators of a car designed to travel faster than a speeding bullet say the project's most important goal will be to help teachers inspire a new generation of scientists.

The three-year Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) project aims to create a vehicle capable of achieving 1,000 miles per hour, smashing land speed records.

Andy Green, the RAF Wing Commander who set the current record in 1997, will be at the car's controls when the attempt is made.

He told The TES that the speed he reached would be less important than whether the project succeeded in exciting five to 19-year-olds about science and maths, and got them to consider a career in engineering.

"It doesn't matter if we don't get the 1,000 mile an hour target," he said. "I really don't think it would be that disappointing provided we'd managed to get pupils involved, thinking it was the coolest thing ever, and that it had been a fun thing for schools.

"That would be better than going over 900 miles an hour but not getting their interest."

Wing Commander Green became the first - and so far, only - person to break the sound barrier on land in 1997 driving Bloodhound's predecessor, the Thrust SSC, at 736mph in the Black Rock Desert, US.

An education centre will soon be established for Bloodhound in Filton, Bristol, allowing schools to see the car as it develops.

A website was also due to go live this week, providing lesson materials that tie in closely to the national curriculum, as well as regular updates on the project's progress.

Wing Commander Green said that the materials for primary pupils included basics about movement and friction, while one of the electronics challenges set for secondary pupils was to create a self-regulating temperature control system.

The lesson resources are expected to focus on science, maths and engineering, with some case studies for the new engineering diploma. But other subjects, such as citizenship and geography, are being included so schools can use the car as a basis for cross-curricular work.

Dave Rowley, head of education for the scheme, said: "Hopefully, the primary pupils will find themselves making calculations about the speed of the car, not even realising that it's maths."

The Government is part-funding the education programme, but the car's construction costs will be paid for by sponsors.

Lord Grayson, the science and innovation minister, was due to unveil the project yesterday at the Science Museum in London.

Wing Commander Green, who got a first in maths at Oxford University before becoming a pilot, said that his interest in maths and science had been inspired by the Apollo landings, which took place when he was seven.

He hoped the Bloodhound project might provide similar inspiration for pupils who were not alive for Apollo and also missed the excitement of Concorde's first flights.

"If there are any five to 19-year-olds who wouldn't have a sense of wonder about this, I'd be very surprised," he said.

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