Supersonic inspiration at Goodwood Festival of Speed

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobiles

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobile phones.

Not taking any prisoners

“I get it – I finally get the equation”. The words of one of the 300 children invited to take part in the Bloodhound Rocket Challenge at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

What did she get? The penny had dropped for this 12-year old, who is starting to make choices that will shape her academic pathways, that the crafting of a foam rocket car hurtling along a wire at 120 mph had a direct impact on the speed.  There’s an argument to say that family, friends and the subjects she is confident in have already set her on a path that may take her away from STEM* careers – so today has never been more important.

The team of three girls from Twynham School, in Dorset, turned up to Goodwood prepared – tool boxes, plans – they were not taking any prisoners. They wanted to win. The foam rocket car they had so carefully crafted shot up the track – surprising the adults and momentarily silencing the young students. Smoke from the rocket motor and then the impact of the car – the same weight of an apple – into a soft barrier to keep the cars intact.

The car stopped and the girls were off, sprinting up the 50-metre track to see what the heat from the rocket motor had done to the foam car. Had they removed too much material? Had it melted through?

Public watches rocket cars made by chidren travelling at 100 mph_2

Public watch rocket cars made by children travelling at 100 mph


The car had gone down the track so quickly that the rocket motor was still burning and had set light to the soft barrier – this was “epic” according to the girls and was certainly not what normally happened at school. The flame was stamped out and all eyes focussed on the rocket car. The front wheel of the car was gone.

“What happened?” “Where has it gone?” The girls started discussing what went wrong, how it had happened and if had slowed the car down?

“Miss, what speed did it go?” the question was fired at Army Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown marking run times on successful cars. “I’m not telling you” she said with a grin. “You work it out!”

What followed was an impromptu lesson on speed=distance/time. Teacher Amanda Britton who was accompanying the girls watched on as Liz drew out the S-D-T triangle and mobiles were pulled out to work out the speed.

Craftsman Liz Brown recently joined the Army Reserves and is “cool” in the eyes of the three girls because she is training to repair weapons systems in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. “Once I’ve qualified, the guys will bring in their rifles to me and I will be responsible for fixing them” says Brown when quizzed what she does.

The girls get the significance of Brown’s role and eyes are fixed on her as she tests their calculations. “If you are dividing metres by seconds, what do you get?” Next is an explanation of m/s and mph and some homework via Google on the journey back to Dorset.


As they walk away we overhear, “I get it – I finally get the equation”.

Educational Ambassadors

Rocket powered inspiration - Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Rocket powered inspiration – Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Mission accomplished. In the space of 2 hrs, Bloodhound’s rocket challenge has linked the shaping of a blue Styrofoam block to aerodynamics, rocket science (chuck in chemistry and a dash of Newton’s laws) and a lesson on speed calculations that will adhere to a mind filled with much more than school work.

Bloodhound’s rocket challenge is simple but powerful. Outreach projects like this, and others that the Bloodhound team have up their sleeves, are challenging kids’ perceptions of what is achievable and how they access Science and Engineering.

Bloodhound has the ability to inspire – and kids get it.

The rocket challenge coincided with an announcement from the Army at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed to support Bloodhound’s education program. The Army has trained 100 soldiers as part of a volunteer force of Educational Ambassadors to take the 1,000 mph car’s cutting edge technology into schools. Soldiers from the REME have been visiting schools across the country in support of Bloodhound’s professional educators – all in an effort to offer every child a lesson on Bloodhound by 2018. So far 40,000 children have received a lesson on the supersonic car.

The announcement reaffirms the Army’s support to the Bloodhound project, which already has a small team of military technicians seconded to the engineering team under a commercial arrangement to help build the 1,000 mph car.

Ask your kids if they have heard of the Bloodhound project – you will be surprised at how much they know!

By Major Oli Morgan

Read more of Maj Morgan’s blogs here

*Science Technology Engineering and Maths.

Phase 2 Trade training: REME Vehicle Mechanic

Craftsman Luke Littler

Craftsman Luke Littler

I am Craftsman Luke Littler and I am part of 10 Trg Bn REME. I joined the Army on 21st of August 2011 and completed my Phase 1 training at ATR Bassingbourn on 25th of November 2011. I joined the Army because I was bored of just going to college and doing the same thing every day and night, I wanted a challenging experience and adventure in my life and I have definitely had both of them!

I used to walk past the Army careers office everyday on my way to college meaning to go in there, then eventually I got enough courage to ask for a job in the Army. When I walked in the staff made me feel at ease straight away and talked to me, giving me a lot of information on all the regiments in the Army. I chose to be a REME Vehicle Mechanic because mechanics was what I was studying at college.

The staff booked me in for a barb test which is just a maths and English test; the score you get depends whether you get the job or not so be prepared! After that I got given my medical forms and was sent to do a fitness test before selection. I passed that and was sent to Scotland at ADSC Glencourse were you do a jerry-can test, a 1.5-mile run, PT session and leaderless tasks. You need to put 100% effort because they will be watching you. Just a couple of weeks later I received a phone call offering me a place at phase 1 training.

Phase 2 Induction week

After completing phase 1 training I got a week of leave which gave me chance to catch up with family and friends. Soon though it was time to set off to Prince Phillips Barracks in Hampshire. On my way down I didn’t know what to expect but I arrived there with a couple of colleagues from phase 1. On arrival someone showed us to our room, gave us the keys and told what to do in the morning. You get four people in a room with plenty of space to put your belongings like uniform and civilian clothes. We soon set up our rooms with gaming consoles, TV, microwave and so on. A firm is in the middle of putting Wi-Fi in the blocks so we can gain access to the internet in the room.

Me and my room mates woke up on the Monday morning and reported to the office, they told us where we had to go, seeing as this was our first week here they called it induction week and I am not going to lie but this week was very boring. Induction week provides a lot of useful information and briefs from the chain of command and also from financial services and insurance. We also completed physical tests. The weekend came and we were allowed to go home. As students you have to be back on camp at 23:59 Sunday night, but as it was our first weekend here most of us decided to go to Portsmouth or Guildford – the two local cities – for a night out.

Trade foundation

In the second week we started our key skills course, which was two weeks long. You learn English, maths and IT and you do a level 2 exam in the subjects which you must pass if you want to get promoted in your Army career. Key skills is followed by a trade foundation course.  This is six weeks long and filled with technical drawing, materials, maths, science and bench-fitting. It is possible to be classed as exempt from some subjects if your GCSE results are high enough, but you have to pass each subject in order to advance to start a trade course.

Generally you get left alone by your platoon staff providing you don’t let your discipline slip and keep on top of things like your uniform!  There is no one marching you around camp and we don’t have room inspections everyday, we have them every Friday morning.