Primary schools enter race to build UK’s fastest rocket-powered model car

Bloodhound, rocket car, santa pod, microsoft, bbc, micro bit

A competition to build the UK’s fastest rocket-powered foam model car has been opened up to primary schools for the first time.

The Bloodhound Project, which hopes to break the land speed record next year with a 1,000mph car, has invited 112,000 students from 4,000 primary and secondary schools to construct a foam car that can race along a 50-metre drag strip faster than its rivals.

The winning team will be flown to South Africa to watch the Bloodhound team in action.

Students must build and develop their rocket cars using a BBC micro:bit, a small, programmable computer that has been developed by the BBC and 31 partners, including Microsoft and the Army. The device, which features a 5×5 LED display, accelerometer, compass, buttons, I/O pins, Micro USB plug, Bluetooth Low Energy antenna and external battery pack, has been given free of charge to every Year 7 (11-12 years old) child in the UK in a bid to get more youngsters interested in coding.

The micro:bit recently won the Education category at the BIMA awards, which recognises the best achievements in the British digital sector.

Steve Beswick, Senior Director of Education at Microsoft, said: “The future of education hinges on how technology is able to accelerate and improve learning, and the Bloodhound initiative is a true example of how to engage students and get them excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

How to get involved

  1. Form as many school teams as you like (no more than four students in each team) and register them at by clicking on the map, finding your local Race HUB, and joining the HUB community by the October 31, 2016.  Schools registered by October 31 will be eligible for an allocation of free rocket car kits that has been made available by the British Army and other competition sponsors.
  2. Create your school STEM community at to receive entry codes. This will be linked to your regional HUB, and you can invite your teams to join this community – it’s a free STEM collaboration space.
  3. Collect your free allocation of foam model rocket kits from your HUB at a briefing held in November and December 2016. Purchase extra kits from the shop in the HUB community.
  4. You will need to use your own BBC micro:bits allocated by the BBC to each secondary school during planning and design. Primary schools can purchase Micro:bits from the, micro:bit, rocket, bloodhound, microsoft
  5. Program the BBC micro:bit, using the micro:bit editor inside Dendrite, to measure and capture acceleration and G force.
  6. Insert the programmed BBC micro:bit into the foam rocket car using the kit supplied by race HUBs.
  7. Test fire the model rocket using an air pump and/or the supplied rocket motors (one time use).
  8. Race your cars on an approved race track set up at your Race HUB, gathering speed and Accelerometer data to load into the leader board in your school community on
  9. Post a video for your fastest time into your school community on and link to your time on the leaderboard.
  10. The goal is simple – The  2 fastest primary and secondary teams from each Race HUB open day, qualify for the regional finals in March 2017. The fastest primary and secondary team from the regional finals will qualify for the national finals in May 2017.
  11. Full terms and conditions can be found at

“The fact that we are now talking about educating students how to extract data to tweak a model rocket car, and encouraging them to experiment with the car design to improve its performance, is simply astonishing. To complement this, there will be Microsoft volunteers visiting schools all over the UK, helping those that want to get involved with the initiative. Since its inception, the Bloodhound project has surpassed all expectations, and it’s fantastic to see young students getting passionate about engineering.”

Schools can register for the competition at They will then be entered for one of 120 regional races. The top two primary and secondary school teams from each race will qualify for the regional finals. The winning primary and secondary school teams at each of the 15 regional finals will compete at the national finals at Santa Pod Raceway, in Northamptonshire.

Earlier this year, three teenagers from The Littlehampton Academy in West Sussex beat 28 other teams in a drag race to win the previous Rocket Car Challenge, which was only open to secondary schools. Tommy Smallbone, 13, Thomas Strudwick, 14, and Berry Lisicki, 13, built a foam model car that travelled at more than 48mph, winning a chance to see the Bloodhound car in action and a £1,000 cheque for their school.

To find out how fast their cars went, pupils programmed a BBC micro:bit device to capture real-time data – such as speed – from the vehicles and downloaded it using a Microsoft Office add-on. Using this data, the students tweaked their designs to make their car go as fast as possible.

“The Micro:Bit really impressed us; it produces very accurate data,” said Strudwick, who, along with his team, used specially designed wheels with fewer spokes to reduce weight and make their car go faster.

Schoolkids use BBC micro:bit in their rocket car

The trio will watch the Bloodhound supersonic car complete trial runs at Newquay Cornwall Airport next year before Scottish entrepreneur Richard Noble’s team travels to Africa to attempt to break the current land speed record of 763mph – set by Thrust SSC in the US desert 20 years ago. Bloodhound will try to hit speeds of 800mph, around 200mph below its top speed.

Aulden Dunipace, Education Director at Bloodhound, said: “Bloodhound is the most extreme engineering project out there and we get to link it directly with classroom learning. The Micro:Bit Model Rocket Car Competition brings real world science, technology, engineering and mathematics into the classroom.”

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