RAeS Heathrow Branch Delivered “Cool Aeronautics” Inspirational Outreach Event

On the 22nd February 2017, the Royal Aeronautical Society Heathrow Branch successfully delivered the first “Cool Aeronautics” flagship outreach event of 2017 with assistances from the Society HQ, Kingston University London and British Airways Engineering Graduate and Pilot, as well as an inspirational careers talk to the Kingston University students. The event was hosted at Kingston University’s state-of-art Roehampton Vale Campus, home of the University’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering education hub, and welcomed two schools from the local area with over 40 pupils.

The Cool Aeronautics project is the Society’s flagship primary school outreach programme that aims to introduce children to the world and people of flying, aerospace engineering, and space. In particular, Cool Aeronautics embodies the Society’s aim to ‘promote aerospace and aviation to a new generation’.

The day started with a quick icebreaker exercise and presentation from Dr Peter Barrington, Head of Department of Aerospace & Aircraft Engineering. Dr Barrington first welcomed the students and explained what the university offers and the history surrounding Kingston as an aerospace hub for building aircraft such as the Harrier, Hurricane and Hawk. He also gave a brief introduction of aerodynamics to the students, providing them with a base understanding of lift, drag and principles that they would be able to use later in the day as part of their glider challenge.

In the mid-morning the students then migrated to one of the large activity rooms for talks delivered by Eleanor McBrien, British Airways A320 First Officer, and Graeme Brown, British Airways Engineering Graduate about working in the diverse aerospace industry. Eleanor’s presentation looked at the life of an airline pilot, what the job involved and how the aircraft flies. The pupils had great fun using balloons to demonstrate thrust, and creating their own lift using paper. While Graeme’s presentation focused on life as an aircraft engineer, and they were introduced to some of the tasks carried out by engineers as well as having a mini competition on the facts and figures surrounding aircraft. The pupils enjoyed these interactive presentations and their enthusiasm for both the roles shone through, particularly when it came to the question and answer session.

In the afternoon, the school pupils involved in Cool Aeronautics were treated to a tour of the facilities, being shown the University’s Learjet, flight simulators as well as the mixology labs and wind tunnel experiment. The pupils also spent some fun time on the glider building project, where Dr Barrington had the children split into groups of four and they created miniature gliders made of polythene, which they then used to compete, flying them at a large target set up in the main lecture theatre. This was the highlight of the day for many of the students for who, on the most part, it was their first hands-on experience of aircraft design!

At the same time in the afternoon, the RAeS Heathrow Branch and British Airways Graduates also spoke to the Aircraft Engineering students studying at the University about the various graduate schemes, benefits of the Society and assessment and interview advice for the future. This was well received and the students particularly enjoyed talking to the graduates about their prospective career path.

It was wonderful to see such enthusiastic pupils from the schools, who were always keen to ask and answer questions and really got into the spirit of the event, particularly getting their competitive streaks out when it came to the final competition. It was wonderful to see, perhaps, the next generation of engineers, pilots, or airport operations begin an interest in a dynamic, changing industry that is always looking for new, fresh ideas.

The day finished with a prize ceremony for the glider competition and a conclusion from Jonathan Axford, the Society’s Careers & Outreach Officer. It was a fantastic day had by all, and the RAeS Heathrow Branch would particularly like to thank Dr Barrington, student volunteers from Kingston University London, British Airways Engineering Graduates and the wonderful pupils from local schools for coming and making the day a great success.


Eleanor McBrien, 23 February 2017

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