STEM week - Flight Themed

Mr Budden, Assistant Head, Head of Mathematics & Director of STEM

17th March 2023

STEM Week this year has had the theme of ‘Flight’. After beginning the year building two Spitfires in honour of one our first Heads, the boys continued in the same manner with a whole week dedicated around Flight.

After an informative assembly, mainly based around an article written by Ben H in 6B, the week got underway in dramatic fashion with trips to Biggin Hill Airport for Years 7 and 8. It was an inspirational visit with the boys having the opportunity to see behind the scenes of a working airport: experiencing the luxury of the Jetex lounge, sitting in helicopters at Castle Air, seeing private jets being refitted at Bombardier and getting a guided tour of the Spitfires in the Heritage Hangar – a truly memorable experience for the boys (and for Mr Smeeth).

Meanwhile, back at school, Pre-Prep were busy making paper planes for the whole school competition under the guidance of the Year 8 boys and Year 5 flew Mr Coston’s drones in the playground.

Tuesday saw the Year 7 and Year 8 boys take a turn on Mr Fenning’s highly realistic flight simulator, having a go at taking off, landing and cruising, with various degrees of success! It was the turn of the rest of the school to make their entries for the paper plane competition, with one competitor flying their glider from the raised area onto the roof of the Pre-Prep building! At lunch, Year 3 to Year 8 got to experience flight of a different nature, with a darts competition being held in the hall. Over 60 boys had a go with plenty of bullseyes and treble 20s being scored.

Despite the arrival of snow, STEM Week continued on Wednesday with activities for Year 6 and Pre-Prep. Former Chief Engineer at BA, Malcolm Homan, came into do an interactive workshop session with the Year 6 classes. The boys learnt all about the various forces involved in flight and how planes are able to control and balance them using rudders, ailerons and elevators. Great fun was had building gilders and experimenting with hair-dryers to replicate the forces experienced during flight. At lunch-time it was the Pre-Prep’s turn to enjoy a turn at darts. 20 boys had a go with two boys breaking the 100 mark – impressive stuff!

On Thursday, the day started with an energetic assembly from Professor Bubbleworks, introducing some of the science behind states of matter and energy. Some boys, and Mr Coston, were invited on stage to take part in experiments, with varying degrees of success. The Year 6 boys were then treated to a talk from Mark Chesney, a former pilot and safety consultant with the Civil Aviation Authority. It was reassuring to hear that a passenger would need to fly continuously for over 25,000 years before they would be in a dangerous accident. The final 10 minutes were the perfect time for a Q&A session with some interesting anecdotes. Meanwhile, throughout the day, Professor Bubbleworks held sessions for individual year groups up to Year 6. The boys took part in experiments and got to ‘play’ with lots of interesting equipment, including van de Graaff generators, which resulted in some interesting photos! In the Pre-Prep, the boys made gyrocopters, lead by the Year 8 boys. By creating different sized wings, the boys were able to affect the amount of air resistance and thereby change the speed of their gyrocopters. In the afternoon, Year 5 visited Sevenoaks School for an interactive workshop on Robotics, putting their coding skills to the test with following robots and micro:bits.

Friday saw the STEM Fair come to Solefield in the morning. The Year 7 and 8 boys had been working incredibly hard in their lessons with Mr Bowden to put together a stall with a link to Flight. The whole school visited and were treated to explanations, demonstrations, experiments, challenges and competitions, all put on by the Senior boys. Highlights included a Marshmallow Cannon, Catapult firing, levitating a hot air balloon and innovative use of the VR headsets so the boys could travel on drones, fly like an eagle, go wind-suiting or see the inside of a plane cockpit. At lunchtime, the final event of STEM Week brought the Paper Plane Competition to a head. Qualifiers from each class launch their planes from the Art Room out onto the playground while the rest of the school and staff watched on below. The winning plane travelled half the distance of the playground – a great effort!

A busy and enjoyable week for all of the boys and the staff, with inspirational trips, visits, activities and workshops. The boys learnt so much and had a great time doing so despite the weather!