Students rocket to success with Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group

On the 24thApril, Marshall Aerospace and Defence group invited Y9 students from Cambridge Home Educated Families, Coleridge Community College and North Cambridge Academy to compete in the Rocket Powered Poppadom 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. 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.

Ross Clark, Design Engineer at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, said:

“It is a joy to be able to invite the year 9 students into Marshall to demonstrate that Engineering can be fun and interesting. The challenge day has been set up to allow them to explore problem solving in a trial and error environment while having fun and playing with model rockets. We also want to encourage the students to realise that anyone can contribute to problem solving, regardless of academic ability and that there is not a right way to get into engineering; it is down to their own wishes and ambition.”

Once teams had been given their brief, they started planning their initial design 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.

Year 9 students from Coleridge Community College, enjoyed the challenge:

“LaunchPad was a blast, our rocket went really fast. It was a good experience and we really proved that women can be engineers!”

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 gives them an insight into the roles within engineering and how they work collectively to create products that are used for a wide range of applications. The project 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.

Carol Szyszlyk, Student Services Manager at North Cambridge Academy, said:

“These days are great for students as they need to work well as a team, communicate, delegate and work together to produce a product. Today’s project was great as they were able to test their model and then make modifications for the final test.”

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.

If you want to find out more about how you could get involved, please contact us at cambridge-launchpad@formthefuture.org.uk.

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