Students propel to success with Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group

Year 9 students joined Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group to design crash structures in the Rocket Powered Poppadom Challenge

On 5th November, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group (Marshall ADG) invited Year 9 students from Cambridge Academic Partnership, Cambridge Home Educated Families, Comberton Village College and North Cambridge Academy to compete in the challenge.

The aim of the challenge was to design and test a crash structure that would be attached to a rocket motor and when fired, support and protect a poppadom. At the start of the day, ambassadors currently working in the aerospace industry introduced the key requirements for the designs and encouraged students to think about the factors for an effective aerodynamic structure.

The teams then planned their initial designs and visited the ‘shop’ for materials. Each team was given a budget of $100 Marshall Dollars to give them an insight into the pricing constraints of a real-life project. Once they had bought their materials, they created their first prototype and conducted a first test, firing their structure along a wire. Students were then given time to problem solve and adapt their design to see if they could make it more successful.

Katrina Levy, Educator, Cambridge Home Educated Families, said: “I believe these types of opportunities that take learning out of the classroom enable children to explore applying their knowledge to unknown challenges. They can build on teamwork and problem-solving skills. It is inspiring for the children to meet people from different professions, see the winding paths many careers take and that school is a stepping stone.”

By introducing young people to a diverse range of professionals, in differing roles and stages of their career, Cambridge LaunchPad aims to inspire students to consider the options available to them in STEM after education.

For many of these students, the development process from initial concept to design and testing is not something they often do at school. Working in teams to gather ideas and create their crash structure gave them insight into the roles within engineering and how they work collectively to create products that are used for a range of applications. The project day ended with a career talk with ambassadors who shared their experiences of what it is like to work in the industry and the education and career pathways that led them to where they are now.

Chris Botting, Materials, Processes and Additive Manufacturing Engineer at Marshall ADG, said: “It is very rewarding to be able to share our passion for engineering with such an enthusiastic group of young people. Watching them develop their team working and problem-solving skills on realistic engineering challenges inspires us to continue to promote engineering as the career of choice for both girls and boys.”

Over the course of the day students were encouraged to think about skills that are needed in the world of work such as teamwork and communication. The team that best showed their understanding of these core values were then selected to attend the annual Cambridge LaunchPad award ceremony to celebrate their achievements.

Year 9 students from North Cambridge Academy said: “Remember, remember the 5th of November, the team poppadum survived ‘till dinner, the LaunchPad experience was one to remember, our rocket-propelled structure didn’t end up in embers!”

Molly Askham, STEM Outreach Project Manager at Form the Future, said: “During this event, it was great to see how each student engaged with the challenge. It can be daunting to work with others that you do not know, and every team interacted with their peers with fantastic confidence and enthusiasm. A day of fun and excitement had by all involved!”

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