1000 Buckinghamshire children have the STEM experience

Jane Reilly  |  Published: Dec 14th 2018

As part of the RAF100 celebration during 2018, RAF Halton set an ambitious target of having 1000 Year 5 and 6 primary school children attend their Cool Aeronautics STEM events.  The final event was held at RAF Halton recently when 65 children from St Edward’s Catholic Junior School, Aylesbury took part.

Trenchard Museum is working with the Royal Aeronautical Society to promote aerospace and aviation to a new generation under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) umbrella. Cool Aeronautics events are free to attend and offer a fantastic opportunity for young people, the new generation, to meet inspirational people from across the industry and to engage with aerospace themed activities that are relevant to the current Key Stage 2 Skills of the National Curriculum.

The children were initially briefed by Group Captain Mark Manwaring MA RAF, a fast jet Navigator and Chairman of Halton Aero Club, on his ‘Royal Air Force Centenary Flight of the Navigator’ project planned for 2019 when he will attempt to break the UK and World Speed Records for Circumnavigating the earth in a light aircraft, a Vans RV-7, which he is currently building. Following the brief, the children were split into six groups and took part in six different activities in the all-day event at various locations on the Station.

In one activity, the children were briefed by Halton Aero and Microlight Clubs pilots on the principles of flight and given the opportunity to sit in a light aircraft as the pilot. They also experienced a map reading activity using grid references and communicating using hand held radios, with an introduction to Morse Code under the guidance of the London & South East Air Training Corps Communication officer, Squadron Leader Malcolm Wood, and his colleagues.

The British Model Flying Association (BMFA), led by Mr Jim Wright, had the children build their own aerojet models and then flew them, supported by Squadron Leader Dempster Hamilton from HQ Air Command.

The volunteers of Trenchard Museum also led a number of other activities including the children ‘flying’ a Chipmunk aircraft flight simulator, a Link Trainer simulator (made in Aylesbury by Air Trainers Limited in the 1950s) and a briefing on aerodynamics.  

Trenchard Museum volunteer, Mr Brian Rogers, supported by Flying Officer Jamie Shaw, (a future RAF pilot), was kept particularly busy ensuring that all 65 children had the opportunity to ‘fly’ the Chipmunk Flight simulator!!

The children also designed and built rocket models and then were given the opportunity to test them on the ‘firing range’, with euthusisatic support from several RAF Halton STEM Ambassadors, in particular Flight Sergeant Len Brettell and Cpl Darren Culley.

In another activity known as the STIXX activity, the children rolled six sheets of old newspaper before compressing the paper using the STIXX machine to produce a solid rod. With the rods, the children were able to make a range of items of their own choice. A significant contribution was made to this activity by a (soon to be RAF STEM Ambassador) and SAC Kieran Skews supported by Trenchard Museum volunteers Mr John Gill and Mrs Sandy Lowe.

Invaluable support was also provided throughout the day by 12 Servicemen Awaiting Trade Training, (SATTs). 

A very hectic day for all concerned but the smiles on the children’s faces throughout the day made it all worthwhile!!

Mr Bill McGrath, who organises the events, reported that he had received a thank you email from the lead teachers on 11 December which contained the following: “Hello Bill, Thank you for hosting the Cool Aeronautics STEM event last week. We really enjoyed our visit and thought that all the trainees, staff and volunteers were all incredibly welcoming, knowledgeable and helpful. The children were really enthused about the day and some even said it has beaten all trips so far! In particular they loved making the planes, rockets and the STIXX activity as well as getting to sit in the planes. We hope we are able to attend again next year. Thank you”

Heather and Alison - St. Edward's Catholic Junior School teachers.



Gp Captain Manwaring
Group Captain Manwaring giving a lesson-1
Group Captain Manwaring giving a lesson-2
listening intently
Group Captain Manwaring giving a lesson-3
Scenes from the day. All photos Crown Copyright.
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