Student with a paper plane

Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group show pupils that the sky’s the limit

 300 pupils at North Cambridge Academy discovered careers in aeronautical design in two fun-packed days during Cambridge LaunchPad’s recent digital pilot Years 8 and 9 have been testing the latest in combining virtual and hands-on learning as part of the college’s Experiences Week.

Design Engineers from Cambridge LaunchPad founding Partner, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, worked with Form the Future to create a day that took the students from learning the first principles of flight, through designing a glider, then building and flying their aircraft. The students were tasked with meeting key requirements for their aircraft, including feature controls such as rudder and ailerons and that it had to fly for three seconds. Working in teams and using a limited supply of card, paper cups and straws, they had to test and revise their ideas repeatedly.

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.

Marshall Aerospace staff were on-hand throughout to provide support and advice using a combination of live on-screen teaching and pre-recorded information. They also shared personal careers tips.

Product Development Engineer, James Potter, explained:

“The Covid restrictions have really affected the things children in schools get to experience and meant we couldn’t run our STEM activities as we would normally. It was important to us to stay engaged and, thanks to Form the Future, we got the chance to make up this virtual event. The school really took it in their stride and although we couldn’t be there in person or talk to the children, we got a sense of achievement knowing that they were enjoying it.”

After trial flight tests along corridors, the day culminated in outdoor launches. Some flights were more successful than others, but each one represented a valuable learning experience.

A student summed up their day:

“I really liked making it and planning what we were going to use when we designed it, but it was so frustrating when it wouldn’t fly and kept breaking!”

Another added:

“We were good at the teamwork. When it didn’t fly we had to think together of how to fix it.”

The Cambridge LaunchPad programme is working with partner organisations to develop a library of digital and virtual resources, which will be available alongside in-person Project Days. Together, they link businesses with schools to inspire young people to consider careers in STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

Charlotte Daymond, Curriculum Leader for Science, said:

“Year 8 thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was a lovely opportunity for students to work collaboratively to produce something they were proud of. I heard wonderful discussions and saw lots of troubleshooting along the way. As teachers, we work hard to model resilience to our students and this opportunity really showcased further how resilient our students are!”