'Spudnik' project helps pupils see into space
9 December 2010
A UCL student has helped primary school pupils
launch a potato into space in a specially built craft fitted with a camera.
Chester Mojay-Sinclare (UCL Philosophy) worked with pupils at Landscove Church of England Primary School over several months to prepare the craft that would carry the potato, nicknamed 'Spudnik'.
Chester explained: "We ran a competition with the children to design Spudnik's outfit and made several visits to the school before and after the launch. We talked to the pupils about everything, from parachutes to atmospheric pressure and GPS systems. The sessions were mainly held in a question and answer format, as we found this gave the children the best opportunity to get really engaged and excited about the educational aspect of the project. We also had a fun session designing Santa outfits for potatoes, which was my highlight."
Spudnik's 'spaceship' was tied to a helium weather balloon with a camera attached then launched from a car park near the school, with pupils looking on. The rocket reached 90,000 feet before the balloon burst and the shuttle floated back down to earth on a parachute, landing 140 miles away in Hampshire.
Landscove school's Head teacher, Robin Smith, said: "The kids loved doing things that are unusual, so if you tell them they will be launching a potato into space you really engage their interest. It may seem like a mad idea, but it was a unique project and the children really learned a lot from the experience.
''This project was a really good way to develop this side of their thinking. It was ridiculous but really good fun."
In this Flickr slideshow, you can see the various stages of the Spudnik project (best viewed in full screen mode)