Towards the Red Planet

‘Towards the Red Planet’ Lecture - Alton College – Tuesday 29 June 2010

They may not be Rocket Scientists yet – but a group of College students are certainly learning how to work with one.  Scientist in residence at the College, Dr Marriott and her team of student Rocket Scientists presented a lecture on how they have approached the modelling of a real scientific problem and their experience of what cutting edge research means for them. 

The presentation, which was well attended by both the general public as well as research scientists provided an opportunity for the College to highlight the thriving trend of science being studied by students.

Since starting the project seven months ago, the eight talented students, led by Dr Marriott, extended their study of Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry and Computing to model and predict flows around rockets and other vehicles in planetary atmospheres.  Their collaborative work includes chemical analysis of gases, computer programming and collision physics, all set in the context of the possible reasons for the recent loss of the British Beagle2 probe on Mars.

The young Rocket Scientist students are Oliver Birch (formerly of Frensham Heights School); Alex Cobb (formerly of Robert May’s School); Sam Cobb (formerly of Robert May’s School); James Cox (formerly of The Petersfield School); James Kirrane (formerly of Salesian College); Jonathan Masson (formerly of Amery Hill School); Ben Trew (formerly of Bohunt School) and Ieuan Williams (formerly of Robert May’s School).
Team member Ben Trew spoke of his aspirations, “I hope that, by attending university, I will achieve my ambitions to work in the aerospace industry, with companies such as UKSpace, BAe Systems or the Canadian Space Agency.”

Too often Science and Technology can be taught as though the answers to scientific questions are well known and well defined. Rob Van Ewyk, Head of Physics, at the College said “This project has given the students a chance to see how the modelling of real scientific problems is approached and to experience first hand the effects that this can have.”

Student, Alex Cobb commented “I have enjoyed the Rocket Science project as it has been a great experience to do cutting edge research, which will be useful in later life”.

Jane Machell, Principal at Alton College said “We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Dr Marriott to work with our students and thrust them into the forefront of research on such an incredible project. The students have risen to the challenge with impressive competence and enthusiasm.”

In July, Dr Marriott will be offering research opportunities to the next cohort of students keen to question rocket science.