There is a growing worry in British industry. There is a dire fear that we might not have enough engineers and physicists coming up through the educational system to satisfy the needs and demands of our technologically advancing society.
It is certainly a fear of which Richard Noble, past holder of the land speed record and Director of ThrustSSC, the company behind the vehicle which holds the current speed record, is well aware. That’s why he is working with schools and the education system to encourage interest in his forthcoming land speed record attempt.
But two youngsters from Bromsgrove have proved they are already ahead of the game. Dylan and Oscar Rees, along with some help from their dad, Olly, a teacher, recently launched a teddy bear successfully into space, capturing the whole thing on film. Using items they sourced themselves along with their dad’s help, the boys used a polystyrene box that had been used to deliver fish as insulation, along with heat packs from a local discount store, GPS equipment from a mobile phone, and a weather balloon, to fashion the craft which got as high as 80,000 feet, twice the height the average aeroplane flies at.
The family were granted permission from the Civil Aviation Authority and given several launch dates which were dependant on weather conditions. It was particularly important to the boys that they could retrieve the bear, ‘Uranus’, after his voyage.
“We knew the risks because it was going 80,000 feet,” said Dylan, 12. “We waited two days to get it back and had a two hour drive.”
And it seems that the successful experiment may have far-reaching consequences. Already it has sparked much media interest, with national newspapers clamouring to get the story and the YouTube video is receiving world-wide interest. The footage has been shown in the boys’ schools and classmates have been enthusiastic about the event.
So could a new generation of physicists and engineers have been sparked by this project? It certainly seems that way. Dylan was already very interested in science and maths, having won the Ogden Trust Award for science in schools when he was 11, but the project has given him further insight into what a career in the sciences or engineering could offer and he hopes to eventually become a physicist or astrophysicist. He said of the event: “It has given me something that I can say, I have done this.”
Brother Oscar, 9 agrees: “I think it will change my future a little bit. I wouldn’t think we couldn’t do that because we are just ordinary people. We did it. When I am older I will do it again. Maybe even in on a bigger scale.”
Dad Olly was also fired with enthusiasm: “We might try a rocket car next.”
So watch out Richard Noble - there might just be an up-and-coming challenge to your supersonic car and its land speed record attempt!