South Africa’s week long National Science and Engineering Festival ("Scifest") took place at the huge Settlers Monument Building in Grahamstown (Eastern Cape) and was attended by over 70,000 learners and 400 schools from all nine Provinces of the country. This year’s event was themed Science Rocks and the second that BLOODHOUND SSC was invited to deliver workshops and presentations, plus it was the first event supported by a Bloodhound Ambassador in South Africa.
The concept of the Ambassador programme is not known in South Africa and therefore Peter Woodman’s involvement with Scifest received great interest and we have been invited to develop a proposal with the engineering and manufacturing skills agency (merSETA) for a South Africa wide Ambassador programme. Peter grew up in Bath and became an engineer at Bristol Siddeley (now Rolls-Royce) working on the Olympus engine programme for Concorde. He now has a printing business in Johannesburg after major development rolls in England with Portakabin and in South Africa with the world famous Kreepy Krauly swimming pool cleaning system that has sold over 1.5 million units worldwide. Peter is a 1K Club member and was in the Johannesburg audience for Andy Green’s SAIMechE John Orr lecture at Wits University and enthusiastically followed up the call for Bloodhound Ambassadors. Supporting Scifest meant a round trip of almost 2,000km but this was nothing to Peter who threw himself into all the activities at Scifest, even manning the exhibition stand and signing up teachers to the Bloodhound education programme. We were even able to share reminiscences of apprentice life at the Bristol Aeroplane College!
Scifest included 19 key note lectures, with exciting topics that included saving chimpanzees, the hunt for alien life, evolution, entomology, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), living and flying in space and of course Bloodhound! The lectures were supported by over 450 workshops, talkshops, speed dating a scientist, activity zones, soapbox derby, robotics tournament, and even a sleep over for the 24 hour all action kids!
The Bloodhound workshop was based on the balloon car template but with the addition of an air rocket power plant launched from the IOP (Institute of Physics) accumulator and associated plumbing pipework. To make the experience more exciting we used an F1 in Schools track to enable learners to race each other and they learnt about aerodynamics when some cars took off! They soon worked out the answer was to bend down the leading edge of their vehicles, replicating the spoilers fitted to real cars. The workshops were supported by Peter Woodman, plus John Crossland and Charles Phillips from the Cape Town Science Centre who all had as much fun as the learners! For the teachers it was a chance to see how a simple 20 minute activity could lead to CAD and CAM in the classroom with F1 in Schools, which is a growing intervention in South Africa. The relationship will lead to the introduction of the Bloodhound Class to the F1 in Schools portfolio this year.
One popular celebrity flown in from the USA was four times Space Shuttle astronaut and scientist, Don Thomas who started his career as a research scientist at Bell Laboratories where he patented inventions relating to the packaging of semiconductor devices. However his dream as a child was to become an astronaut and this became a reality when he was selected for the NASA Space Shuttle Program in 1990. Don was one of those young high school physicists inspired by the Apollo Moon landing programme of the 1960’s and 70’s that we feature in our education presentation slide that even amazed Neil Armstrong. When asked just how fast he had flown in the Shuttle, he replied M25! Don is also looking forward to venturing to Hakskeenpan to see BLOODHOUND SSC and will be promoting the education outreach programme to schools in the USA.