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Dec 12

The Adventures of a Space Nerd in America

The only place in the United States of America that I have ever really wanted to visit is the Kennedy Space Centre. It is no secret that I like space, and spacecraft and numerous other things that cause supposedly normal people's eyes to glaze over when you talk about them for more than a few passing moments. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that I had been chosen from the 50 members of the winning team of the UKSDC (UK Space Design Competition) to be one of the 12 to represent the UK at the International Space Settlment Design Competition. Since Jack Gregory and Joel Abraham were also chosen to come as part of the EU team that meant three Redcliffe Sixth Formers were heading to America, and I was one of them.  

 

Project Indagatus logo webOur journey began almost exactly a year ago when among the chaos of over 30 Redcliffe students who wanted to enter the first round of the UKSDC three Redcliffe teams emerged and Jack, Joel and I were in one of them. Despite arguments over how to pronounce the name of our craft, The Indagatus, we managed to produce a brilliant design for the video competition... and a penguin logo!  

 

Sure enough as a team of 9 we journeyed to Imperial College London with Mr Netto, one of our brilliant maths teachers, to compete at the UKSDC. At Imperial we worked hard and despite our multi-school team of 50 being split over two hotels we produced the best design presentation and we won. All nine of us from Redcliffe were immensely proud of what we had achieved.  

 

A few days later I saw the list of names of the twelve that had been chosen to go to America. I noticed that one of them was 'Matt' and assumed that it was the other Matt on the team. I then checked my email... I was going to America. I don't know how Joel and Jack felt when they received their emails, but I can assume that it was similar to how I felt; elation.  

 

 

 

Then the sound hit us. An odd consequence of our distance from the launch pad meant that the huge rumble of the launch didn't reach us until the rocket was well into its journey.

 

 

 

So, on the first Tuesday of the summer holidays the UK team and the UK contingent of the EU team gathered at Gatwick airport. Wearing brightly coloured floral necklaces, apparently because it made us recognisable, we crossed the Atlantic and worked our way through the American customs. Outside as we waited for the bus something became clear. Florida is hot. Even when it is raining it is still far too hot.  

 

I will not run through everything we did in America, suffice it to say, we had lots of fun, grew very close as a team and gained a reputation for playing a very strange game called Waaagh!!!! However there are some events that must be mentioned, one of which is the rocket launch. As we were planning what we were going to do before we left, one of the team discovered the launch timetable for Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Centre which happened to include the launch of an Atlas 5 rocket whilst we were there. So, watching from the beach, we witnessed multiple tons of fuel and steel lift itself into the sky. It was awe inspiring.  

 

Then the sound hit us. An odd consequence of our distance from the launch pad meant that the huge rumble of the launch didn't reach us until the rocket was well into its journey. Clearly hearing the sounds of an event that happened half a minute before is quite an odd experience.  

 

I must talk about the competition itself, the reason we actually travelled to America. I will attempt to explain the intricacies of the ISSDC as briefly as possible. Each team of 12 is placed into a multinational company of 50. This company of 50 has 4 subgroups each with a piece of design to focus on. These sub teams are; Structural, Operations, Automations and Human engineering. As this team of 50 we have to produce a response to a request for proposal (RFP), a hideous document outlining everything our space settlement has to do, and we had 2 days to complete it.  

 

The UK team was going to be collaborating with teams from Pakistan, America, a Chinese American Team and some of the Indian Team. We had had some contact with them over Facebook but actually meeting these amazing people was great. As this group of 50 we formed the imaginary company ‘Rockdonnel’. After sitting through a long talk, (albeit mostly interesting) we decided upon who the team's management was going to be. It turned out that it was mostly going to be people from the UK team, which was nice. We split up into department talks and it was there we received the dreaded R.F.P. We had to design a settlement on the surface of Mars to house 22500 people whilst bio-engineered bacteria converted nitrogen in the ground into an atmosphere. Not too difficult then!!  

 

The competition itself was gruelling, two days of work and attempts to keep communication between 50 people, from different countries and cultures, open and clear. Of course there were failures - contradictions arose in the design, vital data we needed was non-existent and there just wasn't enough time. I myself was juggling three different R.F.P. points and trying to ensure that vital pieces of explanation were not cut from the presentation in search of the 50 page limit. I expect everyone had a similar experience. As the second day drew to a close and the second night began we continued our work. Plans were drawn and redrawn. CAD was renderred, altered and then re-rendered. Before I knew it it was 4:30 in the morning and the team president sent me to bed to grab some sleep before I presented some of the slides in just a few hours time. I slept like, well, like someone who had been working virtually non-stop from 9:00am till 4:30am the next day.  

 

 

 

But I, and I think Jack and Joel, will take away so much more, the unique experiences, the skills acquired and developed, the friends from across the world we have made. These will stay with us forever.

 

 

 

Dawn came. I woke, transferred my notes from where they had been scrawled on my arm to my notepad and tried to be helpful as the last few pieces of our presentation were put into place. In an a couple of hours time, after two other companies had presented their designs, the presenters for Rockdonnel filed on stage and explained our design for the settlement on the surface of mars. Then came the horror of the judge's questions. Each are professionals, if anything we say makes no sense they will know instantly. Small cracks in our design were blasted wide open and then hurriedly patched as people tried to explain vital design points that hadn't got onto the presentation or simply tried to minimise the fallout from a mistake at 2 O'clock in the morning. Luckily for us, each team goes through this so when we returned to our seats we were not the only team who had slightly blank expressions. But when the final team presented, to our dismay, they appeared to have produced a design just as good as ours, maybe better.


Atlantis webSuch thoughts left my head as we broke for lunch and I finally got a chance to explore the space centre. Everything is amazing. The Space Shuttle exhibition is awe inspiring. The rocket garden is stunning. The giftshop had almost everything I could want. (I went back 4 times). Everything I could want from the space centre was there and I hadn't even looked round the whole thing. But the moment we had been waiting for had come. The judge's were soon going to give their verdict. We filed into the auditorium and, after some individual awards had been given, we waited with bated breath as mutiple circles criss crossed the screen deliberately circling all the team names or none of them. Then one appeared round Rockdonnel. We had won. We were the winners of the international competition. The first UK team in 7 years to be part of the winning company, and I was one of them.  

 

I will take several things away from my experience at NASA. Obviously it's great we won. But simply taking part was amazing, I was proud of the work I had done and that was enough. Winning was an added bonus. But I, and I think Jack and Joel, will take away so much more, the unique experiences, the skills acquired and developed, the friends from across the world we have made. These will stay with us forever.  

 

As for the future. The, now Year 13, Redcliffe team is going to enter again and, having seen the sign up sheet, I think there will be a lot of competition from multiple Year 12 teams. To them I issue this challenge, we beat the Year 13 team last year. This year see if you can do the same.

 

Matthew Forth

 

NASA team shot web

 

Jun 15

Pupils prepare to highlight their achievements in ‘the Boardroom’

A group of enterprising students from Redcliffe Sixth Form have been selected as finalists in the Community-Apprentice Challenge running in schools across Bristol.

The inter-school competition Community-Apprentice is a bit like the Apprentice on television. Young people have to develop, and crucially demonstrate, skills and personal qualities whilst managing their own projects. In this case, however, they can only win as a team, not an individual and by tackling a social problem of their choosing.

Bristol’s answer to Lord Sugar, George Ferguson, is on the search for a winning team he believes has what it takes to make a difference for others. The final is taking place in his ‘Boardroom’ in the Wills Memorial Building on the 28 June and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony which will be attended by our students on 30 June at the University of the West of England.

Team Roof from Redcliffe Sixth form have been selected as one of four teams to progress on to the Boardroom Challenge Final. They have worked really hard since September researching their problem, planning what to do about it and overcoming a range of problems to make it happen. Now they have been reflecting on what they have achieved and the impact the experience has had on themselves and others.

Team Roof were concerned about the homelessness crisis in Bristol and created a documentary to educate young people about the reality and causes of homelessness. They interviewed experts from local charity St Mungo’s, people who had personally experienced homelessness, and their peers to better understand young people’s perception of homelessness. The team delivered numerous school assemblies, reaching 800 people in total, and took part in the Big Sleep Out, raising over £400 for The Julian Trust Night Shelter.

You can watch a short three minute film about their project here:

 


Another team at the school, Team Together, have been nominated for the empathy award by the judges.

Team Together felt that conversations about mental health need to start from a much younger age in order to reduce the stigma surrounding it. With support from youth mental health charity Off the Record the team created their own interactive workshops for primary age children which they have delivered in numerous settings, including Brownies and Scout groups, to over 100 children.

During the first round of the Boardroom Challenge both teams had to clearly articulate the skills they had developed from this experience drawing on specific examples. As well as helping them in the competition, this will provide them with examples for interviews for further education or jobs. Employers are increasingly interested in transferable skills, like team working and problem solving, and it is important that students know how to evidence examples which demonstrate this.

Whatever the results it is clear that our students have really enjoyed this experience and gained a lot from it.

 

Envsion team 2016

 

Envision

http://www.envision.org.uk/

 

 

Dec 17

Pupils win favour from city’s ‘Dragons’

On 2 December, two teams of students entered the ‘Dragons Den’ to pitch their project ideas to senior business leaders from across the city.

The students are representing St Mary Redcliffe 6th Form in the inter-school competition The Community-Apprentice. Loosely based on the TV show the Apprentice, teams of young people compete to develop, and crucially demonstrate, their skills whilst managing their own projects. But in this case, they compete not to see who can make the most money, but who can make the biggest positive impact on their community.

The programme allows pupils to tackle real life challenges which require them to manage risk and to develop their decision making, team building and problem solving skills. Our lucky students are being mentored through the programme by Clarke Willmott, a national law firm with over 500 lawyers and support staff. The mentors are helping students to reflect on the skills they are developing through their projects, such as organisation and problem solving and explore how these are relevant to the world of work.

A key focus for the students through the autumn term has been developing their communication skills. Students have had to identify an issue which concerns them in the community and explain why this matters in a film which must be no more than two minutes long and filmed in a single take.

 

Team Together are concerned about the mental health of children and young people. Here's their film:

 

 

Team ROOF are concerned about the growing number of homeless people on the streets of Bristol.  You can watch their film next:

 

 

Students have subsequently had to work together as a team to develop a plan for what they want to do to tackle the issue they have chosen.  

 

On 2 December the teams took part in the pitching challenge which was held in the impressive surroundings of The Grand Hotel, Bristol. 18 teams from 9 schools across the city took part, giving students the opportunity to watch each other to help them learn what makes a successful pitch.

 

The pitch

 

Students were pitching for grants for their projects and feedback and advice from dragons about how they can make their projects most successful. Our teams were up in front of dragons from law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards, Warburtons, Noma Architects, Santander and UWE.

 

Receiving the cheque

 

The dragons were impressed with the teams’ pitches and awarded both teams the full £100 each to help execute their project. The teams will now be able to use this funding to get their projects off the ground, and ensure the greatest possible positive impact on their community. They will also be needing to manage their budget and develop solid planning and execution of their projects, thereby gaining skills which enable pupils gain the confidence to compete in the labour market by providing opportunities to gain the practical know how and attributes that are relevant for employment.

 

 

Nov 19

Envision Update: Students Plan Positive Change with Help from Local Law Firm

 

Envision Logos

 

The youth empowerment charity Envision run a 10 month programme called Community Apprentice, which encourages young people to engage in the issues they see in their community and to make a difference to them through their own social action projects, whilst gaining key employability skills at the same time. It’s a competition across Bristol, where teams from 10 schools compete to make the biggest social impact and best develop their skills.

 

An impressive 28 students from SMRT Sixth Form have decided that they want to make a difference to their communities and are choosing to do so by tackling the issues of mental health and homelessness.


The Sixth Form students have been getting support and encouragement from their team coaches from the law firm Clarke Wilmott who have been helping the students shape their projects and develop their skills whilst also planning for the pitching event in December. This is when all of the teams from across the competition come together to pitch in front of local business people and community leaders for money to help them execute their project.


The team coaching sessions have been a real success, with students and coaches learning a lot about each other, taking part in team building exercises and really honing in on how the students can develop their employability skills.

The teams’ projects are taking an exciting shape and their ideas are really flowing, watch this space for more updates on the teams and their achievements.


To find out more about Envision and Community Apprentice please go to http://envision.org.uk/

 

Sep 26

Sixth Form Q&A with the Archbishop of Canterbury

On Friday 12th September the Archbishop of Canterbury arrived in Bristol to tour the diocese, and we were very privileged and fortunate that he chose to kick-start his weekend by visiting our sixth form for an informal Q&A session which lasted an hour, demonstrating his real commitment to young people and to education.  

 

Addressing the Sixth Form


To start things off the three of us on ‘the panel’ asked a few questions that were more scripted to allow the Archbishop to introduce himself: who he is, what he does, what his work involves and his plans for the future. It was particularly interesting to hear him talk about his role within the Church of England, and he seemed like a genuinely humble guy, playing down his own importance and talking about the importance of everyone’s involvement and how decisions must be make collectively if they are to be for the benefit of the whole church. He was also very focused on the church being of service to the wider community.

 

Rachel writes that

One of my questions focused on why he, as the Archbishop, felt he should be concerned with the worlds of business and finance, considering this is a topic he has spoken out on strongly. His answer included an explanation of how our practical lives and our spiritual lives are not independent of each other. As a Christian myself, I found this response very helpful.

 

Questions were then open to the floor and the audience of roughly 70 people did not hold back. The Archbishop was grilled on many hotly debated topics such as relations with other faiths, our approach to the Bible, church unity, LGBT inclusion, the role of women and euthanasia. He answered all questions thoroughly, reflectively and respectfully, and gave some real insight to all the different aspects of an issue he has to consider when making decisions. 

 

We were very struck by how open and honest he was. He shared numerous personal stories with us, the most memorable of which being his reconciliation work in Nigeria where he worked with a Christian community and a Muslim community to prevent the violence that was occurring between the two groups.  

 

Afterwards, the three of us headed up to BBC Radio Bristol to do a live interview on our experience, which was a bit scary but seemed to go well.

 

By Rachel Gallop, Richie Betts and Fatin Guled.