When I was told to go “to the races”, I was thinking Aintree or Royal Ascot. However, my destination was North Liverpool Academy, and the races involved rocket cars being fired across the school’s playground.
It was all part of the Race for the Line competition, which is open to primary schools for the first time. But this was more than just racing cars, this was the launch of the Bloodhound SSC STEM project for schools, featuring members of the Bloodhound team – which will attempt to break the land speed record in South Africa next year using a 1,000mph car – the Army, Microsoft and Computing at School.
We gathered in a design technology suite with students who had been selected to take part in this special race day. They worked with Bloodhound and the Army to produce 12 aerodynamic cars from a polystyrene block. They came in different shapes and sizes, and one even included wings.
It was great to see students from primary schools getting involved, and they certainly created some colourful cars. However, the best car name went to “Da Nan on Toast Express”, which managed a very respectable time.
Meanwhile, the 60-metre track was taking shape on the playground. The Army laid out wires along the course (the cars were hooked on to them to keep them straight), while In the middle of the run was the timing gate, which featured a BBC Micro:bit to record the speed of the cars as they passed. The students also added Micro:bits to the cars to record their acceleration.
The winning car achieved 47.2mph. Not bad for the team’s first attempt.
This competition is an amazing opportunity for students, who are inspired to solve problems and build something. It is these problem-solving skills that will be crucial for them in the future.
Kevin Sait is a Microsoft in Education Ambassador