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Aiming for the stars




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Pupils at the Minster School, Southwell, are launching rockets and measuring earthquakes as part of a £17,000 science project.

The Mission To Mars project is run through a science and engineering club paid for with a Government grant.

The Minster School is one of 250 schools in the country to be given the money over two years to help pupils improve their science skills.

Around 20 children, aged 11 to 14, attend the club after school on Tuesdays.

A teacher who helps run the club, Mr Matt Arnold, said pupils were learning skills similar to those needed for a real space mission.

Club members are split into different groups, each responsible for a certain part of the mission.

One group is investigating forces and structures and visited Southwell Minster to see how the building was designed.

The pupils have built a model geodesic dome, an almost semi-spherical structure made from a network of circles that interlink to form triangles.

The school hopes a larger dome can be built to house an eco-garden on the school site.

Mr Arnold said the idea was to create a miniature Eden Project where tropical plants were cared for in a greenhouse environment. The school is planning to submit a lottery bid to pay for the garden.

Another group has been making robots that would be programmed to look after plants in the eco garden.

Infra-red sensors built into the robots allow them to monitor life inside the dome in the same way robots would on a mission to another planet.

Alex Hughes (12) who has been working on the robots, said the club was more enjoyable than science lessons.

He has also helped make rockets to launch the robots towards the eco-garden.

The work has involved tying eggs to parachutes and dropping them out of windows to test how well the parachutes worked.

Rocket equipment has been bought from America which uses an electrical charge to create the power for lift-off.

A pipe stuck on the fins of the rocket holds an egg that represents the robot. The egg must be transported safely.

Alex Hapgood (11) said: “The work we do in the club is complicated but fun.”

Sam Parkin (12) said since being involved in the club his science test results had improved.

Part of the project involves measuring earth movement using a seismograph.

The equipment was donated to the school after Mr Arnold attended a seismology in schools course.

It can detect earthquakes on the other side of the world. The Minster School is now part of a network of UK schools providing data to external seismology societies.

“As there are regularly factor six earthquakes across the globe at least every month it won’t be long before an earthquake hits the headlines and we will be there to record the results and analyse it,” said Mr Arnold.


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