Bloodhound: Inspiring the next generation at Preston

Bloodhound event in Preston
Bloodhound event in Preston

An innovative education event in Preston earlier this month saw 400 primary and secondary school pupils enjoy a hands-on, interactive STEM educational experience which introduced them to the engineering behind Bloodhound. The collaboration between the Bloodhound team, Institution members and local engineering employers delivered work-based professional development, a community lecture and a super learning day that saw students releasing their hand-built, rocket-propelled vehicles in the shadow of the Bloodhound showcar

An innovative education event in Preston earlier this month saw 400 primary and secondary school pupils enjoy a hands-on, interactive STEM educational experience which introduced them to the engineering behind Bloodhound.  The collaboration between the Bloodhound team, Institution members and local engineering employers delivered work-based professional development,  a community lecture and a super learning day for students that established a blue-print for future member-led education events inspired by Bloodhound.

Ashton Community Science College in Preston, Lancashire hosted an innovative, high profile education event for Year 8 students and primary school pupils.  The event was supported by the Institution and was a collaboration between the college, the Bloodhound team, Institution Member Ian Grant and his employer Springfield Fuels Limited (part of the Westinghouse Nuclear group of companies), whose apprentices and engineers helped the students.

The event was designed as a full day of hands-on, interactive STEM educational experiences for the 400 youngsters - just under 200 twelve and thirteen year old students and the 200 primary school pupils - introducing them to the engineering behind Bloodhound through talks by rocket engineer Daniel Jubb, and getting up close to the life-size show car.  The Year 8 students were able to experience ‘super learning’ opportunities by designing and building their own rocket car – and then launching it.

Sarah Connon, STEM Senior Leader at Ashton, and Ian Grant – who has been a regular volunteer at the College to inspire students about engineering - explained rationale for the event.  Ian said: “We organised this Super Learning Day with a focus on encouraging the students to experience the practical side of learning, in a fun and enjoyable way.”

Sarah continued: “When children are having fun, they learn more.  As teachers, we have to find the balance between meeting the requirements of the national curriculum, which can be very proscribed, and delivering the creative approach needed to inspire students and get them excited about engineering.  My students have been excited all week and have been looking forward to the event.  Even the Bloodhound show car being delivered and manoeuvred onto the school yard was exciting for them and provided a memorable learning experience.”

The students were full of enthusiasm as they talked about building and releasing their rocket-propelled cars. Jem formed a team with friends Adam and Nathan. He said: “All three of us are really interested in science and engineering.  We had a lot of fun building our car, and we had no idea that the car would go as fast as it did – about 60mph!  It’s not like the teachers could allow us to let off rockets in the classroom for our normal lessons, so this has been an amazing chance to see what a rocket actually looks like and how it behaves.  I’ve really seen what engineering is and what it can do.”

Ella, Amy and Briony formed another team.  Briony said: “I didn’t know anything about engineering before today.  The first thing I learned was that the rocket car had to be ‘pointed’ which makes it aerodynamic.  It was really interesting hearing our apprentice, Alistair, talk about his job in engineering while he was helping us work on the car.  Ella told all of us that she wanted to be an engineer because of the things that she’d done today.  I really didn’t think it was going to be this good!”

Amy added: “I loved making the car, and I loved launching it and watching it go.  I feel I learned so much today. I’d never thought about engineering before, but now I understand a lot more.  It’s really good.  Everyone today will understand engineering a lot more now and will be far more interested in it.”

Summing up the experience for the students, Sarah said: “What today proved is that a practical learning event like this ensures that children of all abilities can achieve, learn and have fun.  This Super Learning Day will not be a one-off: it will be about growing exposure to, or encouraging learning about, engineering in school.”

The culmination of the learning activities was an evening lecture at the college, given by Jonathan Ellis, the Ambassadors Director for Bloodhound.  A large, knowledgeable audience comprising local Institution members, local people and students from the college listened with interest as Jonathan gave an insight into the Bloodhound project.  Real highlights were Jonathan showing how the technical data about Bloodhound can be communicated to STEM students by means of a ‘Top Trumps’ game of the Bugatti Veyron – the fastest production car in the planet – versus Bloodhound; and some of the students’ responses to Jonathan’s challenge of whether a rocket or a Formula One engine would be the best method of powering Bloodhound.

On the back of the success of Super Learning Day, the Institution is encouraging members to consider running similar education events which bring together Bloodhound, working engineers and technicians, and students.  Ian Grant is currently developing a toolkit to enable members to do just this, and is a passionate advocate for the benefits to Institution members of innovating to open up these inspirational educational opportunities to a much larger audience. He said: “Without doubt, Bloodhound is a project that resonates with people of all ages, and as a result, it is relevant at all stages of engineering education: from primary school to professional development for established engineers.”

“For example, before the Bloodhound team and the show car came to Ashton, they were taking part in a safety workshop that I had organised for my colleagues at the nuclear fuel manufacturing plant at Springfields. This was part of professional development training which showed how the Bloodhound team addressed risk management and had successfully overcome hazards.” 

 “Today has shown that partnerships between education and industry really work.  We could not have put on this event without the co-operation of companies like my employer Springfield Fuels Limited which kindly allowed nine apprentices and several engineers to help the students today, and of course, the team from Bloodhound.”

To organise a Bloodhound education event, contact

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