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    BR Reaches New Heights

    On Sunday 26th February, Bishop Ramsey teamed up with Brunel University for an exciting and inspirational science project.

    The 26th February is a quite auspicious day all things considered, for instance the first £1 note was issued in 1797, two Clydesdale horses set a world record by pulling 48 tons on a sledge in Michigan in 1893, and in 1943 the USAF began the first non-stop round the world flight. There’s quite a few more, but on 26th February 2017 at 4.38pm exactly Bishop Ramsey went in to space!

    This astonishing feat was the culmination of thirteen months of planning, building, coding and modelling of the flight and was only possible due to the tireless work of three of our gifted and talented students, Mia Becker-Hansen, Jack Wallis and Jonathan Kwok, as well as Raphael Baretto.

    The students have accomplished so much in this time that it is difficult to fit all of it into one article, so to summarise: whilst in year 11 they asked if Dr Costas Banitsas from Brunel University, who had successfully launched three high altitude balloon missions could come into school and explain how to run a space flight. Which he did.

    They were taught how to reprogramme Android phones by Google software developers, who were so impressed with the students’ work that they invited them to spend a day at Google’s London headquarters. One of the Google developers then spent an afternoon in school showing the students how to finesse the code they had written.

    For the last seven months we have worked in collaboration with the Computer Science and Electronic Engineering departments of Brunel University, under the supervision of Dr Banitsas and two of his third year undergraduate students, Omar and Essam. With their help we were able to build three Raspberry Pi computers as well as programme them to take high resolution images and video.

    The BR04 and BR05 space missions were launched on Sunday 26th February from a village near Bath, called Tormarton. As you can see from the pictures below the students achieved what they set out to do, namely to see if it was possible to photograph of the sun setting (technically the earth rising), and what a set of photographs they got back.

    Once released high altitude balloons are completely at the mercy of the elements, and as you may recall Sunday 26th was quite a windy day (gusts of 35mph and above), so it was somewhat touch and go whether we could launch or not. In the end we decided to proceed and so BR04 was launched at around 2.50pm. The balloon and its payload was last seen heading in a North Westerly direction and ascending rapidly. The recovery team, lead by Mairi Molfeta were in constant radio contact with BR04, and were able to record a maximum height of flight of 108500 feet. Sadly and despite their best efforts our students have been unable to retrieve BR04, despite tracking it to a location near Stowmarket in Suffolk.

    Happily BR05 which was launched later was found and recovered and produced the amazing photos you can see.

    The story does not end there. At the time of writing this, Jack Wallis had just been interviewed on the BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show. The show’s presenter promised to ask the people of Suffolk and Essex to look out for BR04, so hopefully we may yet recover it.

     

    This has been such an exciting project to have been involved in and it has been humbling to observe the enthusiasm and dedication that the students have shown to prepare and then successfully launch the two balloons.

    To finish, this is a message sent to the students by Omar’s father that I think sums up just what the students achieved

    "Guys, just a view from the outside. I run Philips Middle East, where 1700 employees operating in 5 countries run every day 10s of projects with equipped partners and experienced project managers planning for all possible failures…. however something always go wrong, mainly for lack of accountability, proper planning, ownership, perseverance, communication and teamwork. Yesterday I witnessed planning, teamwork, passion, accountability, eagerness to achieve and most of all respect and belief. Stand tall all of you, feel proud, the project is a success you have all what was planned for data and footage, you have great teachers and parents to learn from and great young leaders ahead. Keep searching to make things perfect but know you already did it. Feeling proud."

    I completely agree, well done, truly stellar stuff.

    We would like to thank Mr & Mrs Becker-Hansen for transporting the students from Ruislip to Tormarton and for supplying orange squash and snacks, and Mr Barreto for his support on the day and for helping to prevent Dr Banitsas being launched with the BR04 balloon during a particularly strong gust of wind.