Yesterday, Rachel Woollam, John Randall, his son Benji and I, were lucky enough to be invited to RAF Cosford to have a look at their innovative STEM bus. And, what an amazing experience it was. We were greeted initially by Corporal Mathew McNee who took us to obtain our passes for the day. It made us all feel very important. To prove our identities we had to provide some documentation – Benji’s was deemed to be the most trustworthy, as he had a special Blue Peter badge winner’s card.
After yet another terrible photograph, we made our way across the base to meet Flight Lieutenant John Sloley, who together with Mat, runs the STEM bus.
This is a double decker bus dedicated to bringing STEM activities to the local community, particularly school children. We were very excited to have a closer look, as this is a resource that we are planning, with the help of our PA, to establish at Rode Heath. Although ours will remain static, this RAF bus is able to travel within a 30 mile radius and offers a wide variety of engaging learning activities such as Aeronautical Engineering, Virtual Reality and Robotics, as well as having a play area available for toddler crafts.
We were certainly very impressed by the technology we found in the interior. There were a number of large screens with access to the Internet, which meant that we were able to show off our Think Like an Engineer website and bring up an aerial view of the school to see where we might house a similar vehicle. At over 18 metres long and around 2.5 metres wide, it is quite a large undertaking – definitely requiring some thought!
The bus was very well equipped, the screens being particularly useful for giving presentations and directing children’s learning – we would certainly need to budget for at least one of these in our bus to deliver workshops and CPD. As we walked through the different areas we could see more and more potential for the work space: staff meetings, Code Club; birthday parties; PPA etc.
Having investigated the bus and made extensive notes, we were then treated to a peek inside the geodesic dome, which houses a massive radar scanner. This powerful piece of equipment uses microwaves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of planes detected within a 250 mile radius. This is one of a number mobile RAF scanners located across the UK, helping to defend us.
Watching it operate was very impressive.
Benji was even given the opportunity to switch the radar on and try out the software – he was a natural. There certainly seemed to be a considerable number of planes in the sky at that moment.
It was a fantastic end to the morning. Having said our goodbyes to John and Mat, whilst Rachel and I headed to the Museum restaurant for a bite to eat, John took Benji to look at the planes and other wonderful attractions.
Thank you John and Mat for making us so welcome and sharing your STEM visions with us. You have given us a lot of food for thought and armed us with huge enthusiasm for the future. We now need to retreat and form our plan of attack.
And, of course, find a suitable bus . . . . and maybe some sponsors, as we have quite ambitious ideas.