Published: February 05, 2017
Published: February 05, 2017

Stellar Science From Local Students at PPG AC UK & Ireland

PPG AC UK & Ireland have launched a chemistry education project with help from the National Space Academy. The aim of the scheme is to inspire students and engage them in chemistry through a series of sessions provided by the Space Academy and any school can get involved!

PPG is sponsoring 50 masterclasses across the country that allow students to look at colour and materials in the inspirational context of space to facilitate pathways into space sector careers.

The launch session on Friday was extremely successful with all students and teachers having a great time learning about space!

At 10am the year six children from Carlinghow Princess Royal School, Fieldhead Primary Academy, Bristall Primary Academy and Thornhill J & I School entered the experiment room in the Visitor's Centre at the Birstall site for a morning of science! After a short presentation on The Space Academy, some really interesting information on astronauts and space shuttles as well as the importance of their coatings, it was on to experiment number one: Why Are Rockets White?

The experiment involved the students mixing and creating their own paint using thermo chromic pigment to be used as a sensor. The pigment becomes colourless when it’s exposed to IR light and its temperature increases, so we know when it’s getting too hot. The students used different materials to see how they reflect or absorb light from heat lamps and how they would potentially be used when making rockets to keep astronauts safe.

The second experiment the children undertook was concerned with the creation of a 'thermal protection system' and was named: How to Survive Re-entry. In teams the pupils had to design their own thermal protection unit using only aluminium foil, some wire, two paper clips and non-flammable wool to encase a strip of magnesium which acted as the valuable payload (the inhabitants of a space craft!)

The Space Academy's Steve Althorpe then tested and timed each team's device with a blow torch while Andrew McMurray timed from a safe distance. The winning protection system lasted 38 seconds in the intense heat before the magnesium was exposed. In the afternoon it was the turn of students from Upper Batley High School, Batley Girls High School and Whitcliffe Mount School.

The year 9 students performed the same experiments as the children in the morning but expectations in terms of questioning and answering, taking down data and creating conclusions were a little higher. Students from all three schools did themselves proud!

In the How to Survive Re-entry experiment in the afternoon the winning time for keeping the magnesium safe was an amazing 60 seconds under the heat of Steve's blow torch!

We were honoured to have such great students from all seven schools that were part of our launch event and we hope that they now have a little more understanding and appreciation for the chemistry behind the important coatings that are being created for the aeronautic industry!

Teachers and students alike enjoyed their day and their goody bags and had great things to say about their experience: