An adventure into space for hundreds of young people has been hailed by a leading astrophysicist as a vital launch pad for careers in science and technology.

Hi-impact Consultancy has been showing that the sky’s the limit when it comes to scientific discovery, opening up a whole new world to pupils from schools in Southport.

As part of the STEM agenda at Greenbank High, hi-impact has been working in partnership with the school to inspire students to learn more about the opportunities and challenges of science, technology, engineering and maths.

The launch of a helium balloon fitted with cameras and scientific equipment brought the excitement of discovering what near space looks like while, back at school, staff and children at Mission Control watched via a live video link and followed the path of the balloon with live trackers.

In the classroom, pupils also learned about flight prediction, the physics of the balloon launch and the creation of a temperature sensor with Raspberry Pi computers.

The two-day project also included a live webinar with Dr Steve Croft, astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley. Joining the Greenbank students were pupils from neighbouring secondary and primary schools.
After his internet talk from the USA, Dr Croft said: “It’s always a pleasure to collaborate with the team at hi-impact as they provide amazing opportunities for students to get hands-on with memorable science and technology experiments.

“Designing and launching a craft to the edge of space will be a formative experience for many of these young people, enabling them to experience the excitement of scientific discovery and hopefully influencing some of them to choose STEM careers.”
Alan Thompson, managing director at hi-impact, explained: “Our balloon launch into near space is among our creative learning methods and pioneering projects which bring technology to life for young people.

“Even at primary school age, children can take part in exciting and engaging experiences in the world of science, computing, engineering and creative media. Sending 360 degree cameras into space to gain footage and data of the Earth’s atmosphere is a unique way to get involved in space exploration and open the door to a whole world of discovery and brings to life all aspects of the STEM curriculum.”

Ashley Sinclair, Greenbank High’s head of Year 10, science tutor and STEM co-ordinator, said the partnership with hi-impact formed a vital part of the school’s agenda to show the importance of delivering STEM subjects in an exciting and engaging way.
He said: “There needs to be an appetite for these subjects, particularly among young people. Science is everywhere in our everyday lives and these experiences with hi-impact show how they can relate and apply to real life.

“Once that passion is there, hopefully it can lead to the many and varied career opportunities available in STEM-related fields which are necessary to meet our global challenges.”

Lynn Willacy, community and STEM ambassador for Air Products Ltd, which sponsored the balloon launch with its provision of the helium, added: “This was a really exciting initiative that we were extremely proud to sponsor.

“Seeing the excitement of the students as the balloon set off on its journey and the great photos from space was amazing. It was a wonderful way of bringing a science project to life, showing young people how exciting science can be and helping to inspire future engineers and scientists.”