…and the winner is!

As part of our branch’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Royal Aeronautical Society, The Boscombe Down Balloon Challenge sought to challenge the next generation of engineers and encourage engagement with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

The main objectives of the Challenge were to develop a telemetry unit and select a balloon to try and achieve any, or all, of the following 3 goals:

  • The highest altitude
  • The furthest distance from launch
  • The longest flight duration

The winner of each category had the opportunity to win a “Grand” Prize of £1000 for their school.  In total 7 schools in the local area entered the Challenge, which drew to a close on 31st December 2016.

…and the results are in – the Challenge team are pleased to announce that Epsom College have swept the board and claim all three prizes for the highest altitude, the greatest distance and the greatest endurance balloon flights.  They put in a Herculean effort, launching 6 flights in all (with a seventh in reserve for the evening of 31st December).  The students who built the balloon payloads were inspired and proactively led by two very enthusiastic teachers who engaged with our competition in a most positive way.  From the outset, their appetite for the Balloon Challenge, and their determination to win it, was palpable.

Ryde School with Upper Chine were also enthusiastic competitors.  The Ryde team planned their flights with full appreciation of NOTAM requirements, and with commendable attention to the engineering detail of optimal gassing – the trick being to put not too much gas into the balloon.  In the event, the Ryde balloon flew furthest and for the longest duration (by a large margin), but since the balloon itself had a larger bursting diameter than the maximum size permitted in the Challenge, their attempt could not be ratified as a competitive entry.  It was, nevertheless, a significant achievement in its own right.

The Challenge Team would also like to take this opportunity to announce a further prize to be awarded from the Challenge – the ‘surprise prize’ – which will be awarded to Ryde School with Upper Chine in recognition of their participation in the competition. Kindly donated by Chris Hilcox of HABsupplies.co.uk, the prize is a free high altitude balloon flight at a time and place of their choosing within mainland UK. Chris will provide a balloon, helium, and all the bits and pieces to make it happen.  Ryde will be able to take their flight in any direction they want; trying to go much higher, doing a tandem balloon flight, trying to float a balloon around the world, or maybe doing some aerial photography.

Prizes will be awarded at our prize giving event on 10th February 2017, to be held at MOD Boscombe Down.  The event will be attended by representatives from Challenge sponsors, QinetiQ, University of Southampton and HABsupplies.co.uk, and our supporters, Cameron Balloons.  We will also be welcoming representatives from the headquarters of the Royal Aeronautical Society, including the President, Prof. Chris Atkin – check back in a few weeks for a full rundown of the event!

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