Monthly Archives: March 2015

Rode Heath in Space

So now we really have been into Space – well we’ve sent our names outside the stratosphere! What another amazing day at Rode Heath Primary – all courtesy of our Out of This World project.

Tuesday was the launch of our Ballistic Balloon Mission, named in our February Google Hangout by astronaut, Tim Peake. The weather was just about perfect, wind speed 5mph and the sun was almost shining. I had spent the night before making sure that the batteries were charged for the data loggers and that the SD card was formatted and lithium batteries inserted in the Black Box. Everything was ready.

Alex and Chris from Sent into Space ( arrived just after 9am to deliver a brief assembly for the whole school before setting up their equipment. The children were very excited and eager to learn the science behind the launch. Some excellent questions were both answered and asked by a range of pupils – some as young as four – who wanted to know how fast the balloon was going to travel; whether it would burn up when returning to Earth & how Chris & Alex would be able to find it. They were intrigued to learn that Alex would be holding a large antenna out of the window of the car as Chris was driving!

In the end we had to stop proceedings as we were in danger of missing the launch time! Alex and Chris needed at least half an hour to check the equipment and secure the camera and trackers inside the payload – with gaffer tape no less – so we had to let them proceed.

Indeed, the children were not the only ones to be interested in the event. As we trooped out of assembly, a group of reporters from various local newspapers, a film crew from the LEA and John Acres from BBC Radio Stoke, were waiting to speak to us. John was the first to carry out an interview, as he wanted to send his material back to the radio station to be broadcast at different points during the day. Hermione Pugh and Hannah Taylor from Year 5 were chosen to speak to him.

John was hilarious – quite brilliant with the two girls. He almost convinced Hermione that she was going to have to try and fit in the payload. If you want to listen to the whole interview then follow this link to the recording

At 11:00 the whole school were summoned outside to watch the balloon being filled with helium. I hadn’t realised that it actually takes about half an hour to do this. We all stood on the school field, behind strategically placed cones and watched, transfixed, as the white latex expanded and grew to about 3m in diameter. Then the parachute was attached and finally the payload, beautifully decorated with the winning mission patch stickers – Tim Peake had previously tweeted that it was the ‘prettiest payload he had ever seen’.

Jack Castle from Year 5 was the lucky pupil whose number had been chosen to release the balloon. There was a decisive countdown and with 200 pupils and numerous parents and staff eagerly watching, Jack let go and the balloon and payload hurtled upwards at more than 5m per second to the cheer of the crowd. All too soon, it had completely disappeared and was on its journey into the blackness.

Now the waiting began. . .

Inside the payload were two data loggers, each complete with SIM cards and telephone numbers. These were their means of tracking the load. Calling the SIMs would result in a text message giving precise coordinates of its current location.  Also inside the polystyrene container was another box, collecting all sorts of data, such as temperature, altitude and pressure. This allowed us to monitor in real time (on a laptop) the rate of ascent and how high the balloon reached before it finally popped at an increased diameter of 10m.

We hit 106,980 feet in a 2.5 hour flight and landed 29 miles away a little to the north west of Matlock – but unfortunately for Alex and Chris, the payload didn’t quite land on the ground!

I received an email from Chris well after dark saying that it had taken about 4 hours to retrieve the payload from a 120+ foot tree. The reason that it took such as long time was that they had to climb 3 trees in total, as there were no branches low down on the tree it was in, or the one next to it – that’s real dedication for you.

We are waiting with trepidation for tomorrow morning when Alex and Chris will hopefully bring the actual footage to Rode Heath for us to look at. Be sure that it will be posted on this website for everyone to see.

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Ballistic Balloon Mission

On the 17th of March, Rode Heath Primary School launched their mission Ballistic Balloon in the school playing field. The whole school was extremely excited including Mrs Wiskow who was especially enthusiastic about our once in a life-time experience.

The mission was organised by Alex and Chris from Sent Into Space. This company specialises in sending balloons outside the Earth’s atmosphere. In a brief assembly they explained all about the payload, and what was inside it. There was a tracking device so we knew where it was; a camera so it could take pictures of the earth from space and on the outside of our payload were the winning mission patches we designed before the launch.

The balloon we used was made out of latex and was filled with helium. This gas is lighter than air; therefore it can travel further into space. When it was on the ground it was roughly 3m x 3m. The air pressure on earth is different than in space, so the balloon expands more than on Earth. The reason for this is that there is no air pressure in space, so the balloon is forced outwards by the helium inside which wants to escape. Eventually it pushes the balloon to a massive diameter of 10m. When it becomes too big to expand anymore it pops leaving the parachute to bring our payload safely back down to earth.

As it was such an enormous event, reporters and BBC Radio Stoke’s reporter, John, interviewed a few lucky pupils about what they thought about the whole Out Of This World Mission, and later they heard themselves on the radio!

After an exciting day, the school received a phone call saying the balloon had popped above Buxton and had eventually landed in Matlock. Where did it land though?

UP A TREE OF COURSE, and it took 4 HOURS to retrieve it!!

Our day out at the House of Commons

On Tuesday 3rd March Millie, Heidi, Pierce, Mrs Pheasey, Mrs Wiskow and I got on the train to London. The journey took about 2½ hours. We then had to take a taxi to the Houses of Parliament. We got out of the taxi close to the entrance and when we arrived we were given passes before we went through security.

All of us then made our way to Westminster Hall and we took a few photographs on the way. Once we were in there, we met our MP, Fiona Bruce, who showed us around and let us go into the Green Room. We even went where the MPs have their lunch – they have an amazing view!

What I liked the most when Fiona was showing us round was the chandelier. It was huge! All of the ceilings were pretty amazing too. There were lots of patterns on them.

We went back to Westminster Hall to wait for the Mission X Show & Tell to start. When it was time we all made our way to the room that it was being held in.

There were six schools there and all of them were taking part in Mission X. But before we started, a few people talked to us about not giving up on your dreams and what they had done to make their dreams come true.

One lady was a four time triathlon winner and she also holds the world record for doing an Iron Man triathlon in just over 8 hours. When it came to our turn, Mrs Wiskow, Mrs Pheasey and Millie did a speech on what we have been doing. Pierce demonstrated the grip strength and Heidi and I demonstrated the lung capacity.

Once it had finished we had a few photos taken with all of the important people who were there. We also had our space passports signed. Once we had done all of that we got ready to go back on the train home. On our way out we were given Mission X patches and a Mission X flag. We caught a taxi to the train station and got on the train. We all had an amazing day!

By Hermione Pugh – Year 5

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Photos kindly taken by Michael Cockerham

Wow, what an amazing experience. On the 3rd March 2015, I was one of the few people to go and visit the House of Commons – 4 students and 2 adults had the time of their lives and I was so lucky to be part of it.

After a short car journey to Crewe station we finally boarded the train. We had lots of entertainment for the journey so none of us got bored on the 2½ hour ride. We hopped off the train with full tummies as we had lots of snacks and headed to hail a taxi. Luckily the adults had more experience and got one in no time. On the way we saw lots of tourist attractions, including Nelson’s Column, Big Ben, the London Eye and even a sign to go and see Matilda the show (fingers crossed).

We arrived at the House of Commons and had to have our bags checked (you never know what people hide!). We waited around for a bit and then had a chance to go to the gift shop to buy what we wanted. At around 2pm, we met our MP, Fiona Bruce, who was happy to have pictures taken with us.

We also got to meet Johnny Munro, her Parliamentary Manager, who took photos of us and also helped Fiona Bruce. She kindly took us to the gallery to view the parliamentary business in the Chamber. We then moved on to the presentation and we got to hear the other schools’ space projects. The two I especially liked were the school that blended the chocolate cake and water which made a powdery mixture and also the school that made the space animation.

Finally it was our turn, I think I was most nervous because I had to give a speech, but luckily I had it written down and it was all okay (Phew!)

The funniest moment of the day was the end, and get ready because this time the teachers’ experience of hailing a taxi didn’t come in handy. We stood at the side of the road for ages, shouting and waving at lots of different taxis and only 2 came, but they both only carried 5 people. In the end we got a 5-seater and Mrs Pheasey went to get the Tube. Unfortunately, she had left her money with us and had to get a taxi after all.

We waited for her to arrive and Hermione thought she saw her and Mrs Wiskow almost ended up paying the wrong driver. Oh no!

Millie Leese – Year 5


Trip to the House of Commons

If you had told me this time last year that we would be bringing children to the House of Commons, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet another fantastic experience for the Rode Heath pupils and all because of our Out of this World project. We had been invited to attend a Mission X event by Heather MacRae of Venture Thinking, who runs the Train Like An Astronaut programme on behalf of the UK Space Agency. The aim of the event was to meet and listen to special guests from the world of sports, science and space and for schools to demonstrate the various Train Like An Astronaut activities they have been involved in.

All attendees had been encouraged to set up a meeting with their local MP and we had no problem persuading Fiona Bruce to meet us in the Westminster Hall. Four lucky children were chosen to make the trip with Clare Pheasey and myself: Hermione Pugh, Millie Leese, Heidi Pheasey and Pierce Harvey. They were all extremely excited and couldn’t wait to arrive.

Despite stopping at every station, the train journey seemed to whizz by. The children were most amused by the ‘speaking WC’ which advised them to avoid flushing bizarre items such as unpaid bills, an ex’s jumper, hopes and dreams and goldfish down the toilet!

A short taxi ride in a large black cab – which conveniently took six people – and a huge number of photographs of the London sights later (including the lions in Trafalgar Square) we arrived outside the Houses of Parliament. The sun was shining brightly and we were looking forward to the day ahead. Surprisingly, there was no queue and it didn’t take long to get through security – apart from the fact that both Clare Pheasey and I had to be scanned after causing the detector to go off. To be honest I was actually surprised that we were allowed in at all, as we had so many bags and pieces of technical equipment – particularly Clare Pheasey, who was carrying a very large, unwieldy bag containing a jump mat and starting gates.

We had arranged to meet Fiona Bruce in Westminster Hall and shortly after 2pm she arrived with her Parliamentary Manager, Johnny Munro. She was very interested in our Out of this World project and took time to look at the children’s space passports before orchestrating a number of photographs. She then asked the children if they would like to visit the Gallery to view the parliamentary business in the Chamber. Of course, their answer was in the affirmative. Hermione in particular was transfixed by the proceedings, despite the fact that the majority of the green benches were empty. She was able to give an excellent explanation of what was going on and who was sitting where. She even identified the mace! I was very impressed by her knowledge.

Following this brief insight into politics, Fiona took us through various corridors until we reached an outside restaurant area, where the MPs eat. This had a fantastic view overlooking the River Thames with Lambeth palace in the background on one side and the London Eye and Westminster Bridge on the other – another photo opportunity, obviously!

It was now time to meet our fellow delegates for the Fit for Space session, so we made our way back to the Westminster Hall. What a wonderful structure this is: the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. If you look at the floor you notice many brass plaques detailing major events in the Hall’s history such as the trial of William Wallace in 1305; the coronation banquet of Henry VIII in 1509 and Elizabeth I in 1559 and where Winston Churchill lay in state in 1965.

I found it quite surreal to think that I was actually standing in the exact places where these famous icons had once stood.

The afternoon started with presentations from various speakers including Chrissie Wellington MBE, who is the unbeaten Iron Man champion. For those of us who are unaware of this accolade, this is a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Chrissie (four times World Iron Man champion) managed to achieve all this in a World Record breaking time of 8 hours, 18 minutes 13 seconds.

As you might expect, Chrissie gave a very inspirational talk where she encouraged the school children to ‘Reach for the Stars’ and pursue their dreams. One of her main messages was not to be afraid to be different and to be prepared to work outside your comfort zone – sound advice indeed!

She was followed by Dr Sheila Kanani, also known as Saturn Sheila, who works for the Royal Astronomical Society and is obviously very passionate about anything and everything to do with Space. She gave us a whistle stop tour of her favourite top ten things about the Universe, at break neck speed – what an amazing amount of information she was able to pack into ten minutes.

The second half of the session was devoted to the school children who ranged from primary to secondary age. There were contributions from six schools, all taking an active part in the Mission X programme. Everyone spoke very eloquently and it was impressive to hear about the wide variety of activities that are being carried out. Some of the children were very knowledgeable about the topic of Space – even challenging the adults. It was great to see so much valuable learning taking place.

Our own Rode Heath children demonstrated some of the sophisticated equipment that we had been able to use at our own Mission X launch at MMU back in January where we tested lung capacity, and core strength: Handgrip Dynamometers and Peak Expiratory Flow Metres. Millie Leese from Rode Heath then talked about how aspirational her visit to the University had been, to the extent that her goal is now to be the first member of her immediate family to gain a degree. Indeed, to enable more schools to benefit from the MMU experience, Clare and I have recently applied for a Royal Society grant to develop a collection of scientific and educational resources to allow precise data to be collected and analysed by schools participating in the Mission X scheme.

It was soon apparent that a number of the schools present have been involved with Mission X since its inception five years ago. It was wonderful to hear how many of them are now including the programme in their curriculum for all year groups, not just Year 5. Not only that, but due to the impact that Space can have on learning, schools are realising that they can use Mission X as a stepping stone to promoting and increasing the teaching of STEM subjects school wide.

And, with Tim Peake ready to begin his mission to the ISS in November, this is perfect timing to encourage all schools to follow this lead.

Wednesday 25th February 2015

What an incredible experience! The whole school arrived at Manchester Metropolitan University ready for their Google Hangout with Tim Peake. Hermione, my sister Olivia and I arrived early so that if a reporter came, there would be some children to interview. Mrs Wiskow took the three of us in her car and we joined Mrs Pheasey and a few other girls (who were ex-pupils of Rode Heath) at 8:30am. The Hangout was due to start at 10:00am, so we still had an hour and thirty minutes of waiting time.

The rest of the school arrived soon afterwards and we were finally ready. Tim appeared on the huge screen and we all cheered. I was even able to ask him a question! In fact we all of the 21 pupils chosen had time to pose their questions – even Mrs Pheasey managed a couple at the end!

As a prize for asking a great question each one of those pupils received a specially designed T-shirt with the words ‘I have ‘hung out’ with Tim Peake’ on the back. Tim even had one too. Before the Hangout our school had sent him seven copies of our Space passports (one from each year group), which he had spread out across his desk. He told us that he was very impressed with the work we had been doing. We also sent him a T-shirt, like ours, but there was one difference. His said ‘I have ‘hung out’ with Rode Heath Primary’ on the back. He was even wearing it underneath his astronaut overall! We were all flabbergasted!

After the Hangout everyone went back to school, but it wasn’t over for Hermione, my sister Olivia and me. We were all interviewed by BBC Radio Stoke about our talk with Tim. It was an amazing day, one which I will certainly never forget.

Hannah Taylor