The Bloodhound Project How a plastic bottle can turn a student into an engineer

How a plastic bottle can turn a student into an engineer

Education News
Friday, 31 March, 2017

By Andy Higgs, BLOODHOUND Education Ambassador

I’ve been a BLOODHOUND Ambassador for over four years and have had some great experiences – from the Goodwood Festival to school visits to the BLOODHOUND launch in London. Each event is unique and each has its own challenges and rewards.

However, of all the activities and experiences that I get to do by being an Ambassador, for me the school visits are generally the most rewarding as you tend to see the impact of what you’re doing very quickly.

Delving into design and technology

I recently had the opportunity to visit West Leigh Junior School as part of their Design and Technology (D&T) day focussing on fast cars, thanks to Mr Loveridge, the D&T specialist at the school, who felt that BLOODHOUND would be a useful example to demonstrate some of the principles they would be studying.

The day started with a presentation to the full school in the morning assembly. It was a mixed age group, so the presentation was designed to introduce the Project and show some of the basics that they would have to consider when designing their own cars that afternoon. There were lots of gasps when the picture of BLOODHOUND was shown on the screen, and judging by the questions that I was asked throughout the rest of the day, many of them found the content very interesting.

The assembly was followed by launching some rocket cars in the playground as a demonstration. I’d deliberately set up two cars – a plain foam block and another car that I’d given a much more aerodynamic shape. The rocket cars are a bit of a gamble as there are many factors that can affect them, but thankfully it all went well and the ‘shaped’ car went noticeably faster than the block.

Iterative design isn’t just for grown-ups

After lunch, students across the school started building their own cars, based on what they had learned. These were to be gravity racers and so a test ramp was set up for the students to use. What followed was a design masterclass with a plethora of weird, wonderful and – in some cases spectacular – designs.

Some of the ideas were very advanced: we saw baffled water tanks to add weight, elastic band-driven propellers and giant nose cones added to their raw materials of cereal boxes and plastic bottles.

My favourite part of the whole process is to see the students carrying out tests that result in modifications to the designs. They always look amazed when you tell them that the kind of iterative design that they’re doing is very similar to how a lot of experimental engineering works.

I had a lot of fun and hopefully the students did as well. I’d like to thank everyone at West Leigh Junior School for looking after me and I’d recommend anyone who is thinking of becoming an Education Ambassador to go for it!

What the school said

“The day was an overwhelming success, with incredible feedback from my fellow members of staff as well as the children. Andy’s introduction to the day was absolutely perfect with an incredibly detailed and inspiring presentation about BLOODHOUND which really got the children excited and enthused about their D&T Day. His inclusion of the rocket car demonstration on the playground was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone (adult and child alike!).

“Throughout the day, Andy provided support to everyone that he could to help children improve their car designs, and it was fantastic for me as a D&T lead in school to see such fantastic work from our pupils. His impact on the day exceeded expectations.

“Thank you very much for pointing him in our direction. I will be spreading the word of BLOODHOUND to the other four schools in our academy trust in the hope that they will follow in our successful footsteps.”

Mr Loveridge, West Leigh Junior School

And from the pupils:

“It was really fun and amazing to learn about so many cool things!”

“It has been the best day in Year 6 so far.”

“Five stars and 110%!”

“It was such a blast, it went so fast!”

“A brilliant day all round.”

Further information