Space dog helps primary pupils reach for the stars — literally
Published on: 30 Jun 2013
WALLACE’S sidekick Gromit is known all over the world but it now appears the loyal dog has even made an appearance in space.
The miniature mongrel was sent into the stratosphere by pupils at Blackhorse Primary School in Downend, making them the first primary in the country to embark on space exploration.
The experiment, which coincided with Engineering Week from June 3-7, was part of the school’s drive to encourage more youngsters to develop a love of engineering, physics and maths.
Pupils sent a 10cm model of Gromit - complete with his own red Blackhorse primary jumper - to the edge of space in a balloon whilst a camera filmed the entire epic journey.
When the model reached the edge of space, the balloon burst, leaving brave Gromit to parachute back down to earth.
School design technology leader Deb Baker enlisted the help of Atkins Aerospace engineers Dave Curtis and Chris Driscoll - whose unusual hobby involves using helium balloons and old smart phones to take videos from the edge of space.
Year 6 pupils acted as mission control, working with Dave and Chris testing parachutes and using complex metrological computer modelling softwear to work out possible crash sites by studying weather patterns.
Eight lucky children, headteacher Simon Botten and deputy headteacher Neil Fry joined the engineers and headed up to the launch site near Tewkesbury to make the final preparations.
In perfect weather conditions, a capsule containing Gromit, a HD video and stills camera and a smart phone to provide GPS, was attached to a 4m weather balloon and launched.
Ascending at 5m per second, Gromit took around two hours to reach the edge of space.
At 22.3 miles the balloon had expanded to 14m and promptly burst, sending Gromit parachuting back to home soil.
The team then used the smart phone’s GPS to locate and recover Gromit, who was safe and well and waiting patiently in a garden in Ledbury, just 14 miles from the launch site.
Although the still camera froze at 18 miles due to temperatures colder than the North Pole, the video camera kept shooting right up to the edge of space, capturing Gromit’s exploits for all to see.
The recording of his amazing adventure was emailed back to the school where pupils were eagerly awaiting news.
Headteacher Simon Botten said: “Blackhorse Primary recognises that it is essential for Bristol and the UK to maintain its position as a world leader in engineering and we believe that this starts by igniting a spark of interest at a young age.
“The school concluded that it would need to do something dramatic to inspire a new generation of engineers, physicists and mathematicians and decided that space exploration was something which would exceed all expectations.
“We want to teach the children that engineering, maths and science can quite literally take you anywhere. How better to prove this than by showing our children that with an understanding of science and technology and a bit of ingenuity, it is possible to send something into space.”
To view the video to Gromit’s epic adventure visit www.blackhorseprimary.org.uk/about-us/bh-tv. It will also be screened at the school’s Engineering Fair on July 4.