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Stem fundraiser takes tech onboard

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Sarah Weldon will row anti-clockwise around the UK in a specially designed rowing boat



An attempt to row 3,000 miles solo around the UK is to feature the latest technology and equipment for experiments to enthuse students around the world about Stem.

Sarah Weldon plans to leave Henley in May next year in a specially designed rowing boat, row down the Thames and then anti-clockwise around the UK, retracing a route the Vikings took more than 1,000 years ago.

The trip in the 6.17m long, 1.47m wide, 480kg, carbon-kevlar composite boat is expected to take 14 weeks and will raise money for a worldwide Stem education programme. Weldon’s charity, Oceans Project, provides free, online, environmental and Stem lessons to disadvantaged students around the world.

 “We’re using a lot of technology. We’re putting sensors on the boat to analyse the waves’ impact and kit to monitor my heartrate and brainwaves. I’ll be collecting samples from the sea for analysis and making Skype calls to classes,” she said.

Weldon will sleep onboard the boat, which is similar in design to other ocean rowing boats, but is smaller and lighter with a smaller cabin. It is being made by Essex-based firm Rannoch Adventure.

The boat will also include an experiment by a young IMechE member aimed at aiding classroom teaching. The winning design from a competition to design the experiment – which can involve Weldon or the environment around the boat, be housed in a 300 x 300 x 300mm box, cost no more than £2,000 and be repeatable in the classroom – is due to be announced on 10 October. Entries should be submitted to oceans@imeche.org.

Weldon originally trained as a neuropsychologist, specialising in education, and has worked in several countries to help improve education standards. She started Oceans Project after working in Georgia, and using oceanography and online tools to teach students who had never been to the coast. “They were labelled as unteachable, but came back to school after it had finished to learn about the ocean. The platform has developed since I moved away from Georgia, and now we have 17,000 students from 56 different countries in our virtual classroom.”

Weldon aims to raise up to £100,000 on the trip. Every £500 buys a tablet and solar panel pack that enables a school in remote and poor locations to take part in Oceans Project, she said. For more details, see www.oceansproject.com.

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