Space race challenge to Norfolk schools

Just Regional
Nov 4, 2015 3 mins read

Schools across Norfolk are being challenged to enter a unique “space race” in an educational contest with pupils in Africa.

The aim is for partner schools to “compete” against one another while students test their knowledge of maths, physics and geography.

Yellobric, the Norfolk-based charity organising the contests, hopes it will also arouse pupils’ interest in space as well as lead to lasting friendships between Norfolk schools and their African counterparts.

Gavin Paterson, whose family farm in North Norfolk, co-founded the charity which delivers digital libraries through eBooks to schools in Africa, explained that The School SpaceRace will see pupils design a spacecraft and then launch it using a weather balloon.

“The aim is to see which school can successfully launch their craft the furthest into space,” he said. “But it goes beyond that. Participating schools will research space travel history, learning about Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and the American Apollo space missions. They will then look at different ways they can get their craft into space on their budget.”

The competition will involve using maths and physics to work out how big a balloon they will need, how much helium is required to burst the balloon at the correct altitude, deciding how the craft will cope with the low temperatures and pressures near the edge of space, as well as the different wind directions and speeds at different heights.

The first pilot link between a London school and one in South Africa has proved an “exciting and compelling” project for pupils and teachers. He recalled: “There was a natural crescendo of excitement as the African pupils researched, designed, built and tested the craft. On launch day the pupils inflated the balloon and then chased the craft across South Africa in cars until it rose out of range at about 7km, travelling at 80km an hour and eventually crossed into Mozambique.”
Africanpupilsinflating the weatherballoon
The project can be conducted on a budget of £400-£500 to acquire the key components of a weather balloon, GPS tracker, digital camera and altimeter with pupils researching the best method to build the craft and launch it.

“If schools in Norfolk can fund the £400-£500, we as a charity will match that and fund a partner school in Africa to enter the space race,” he added. “The idea is to provide a platform for physics and maths but also for the schools to communicate and we hope it will lead to ongoing relationships between schools in Norfolk and schools in Africa.”

The competition will run over 12 months with students having to hit a number of milestones along the way, keep a video diary and post their progress on social media.

For more information, schools can call Gavin Paterson on 01692 536226 or email gavin.paterson@yellobric.com or visit www.yellobric.com/schoolspacerace/

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