The trip was organised jointly by the Gifted and Talented Waveney Schools Project in Suffolk and St John's College, Cambridge, to enrich the school curriculum in maths and science and give pupils a glimpse of university life.
One of the main aims of the project is to raise the aspirations and attainments of gifted and talented students in science and maths, and give them a glimpse of the opportunities that exist in engineering, and what better way of doing that than to give them hands-on experience in an inspiring setting.Beth Derks, of nodoubledutch.com
Taking part were year 7 and 8 pupils from six schools - five state schools and one independent school - all in the Waveney Valley. Their day began with a talk by Paul Thomas, a researcher at the Whittle Laboratory, who spoke about the maths and physics behind flight and gave an overview of possible careers in engineering.
After lunch the students walked to the Department of Engineering to put what they'd just learned into practise by making their own gliders using basic materials such as card, polystyrene, tape, paper clips and plasticine. Activities were coordinated by the Department's Outreach Officer Joy Warde and a team of volunteer student helpers.
Their designs - which varied from bi-planes to jumbo jets - were put to the test in one of the lecture theatres where the most elegant gliders flew a distance of 25 metres to shouts of applause. Those that were too heavy crash landed into the seating; those that weren't symmetrical or properly balanced flew at a tangent and hit the walls.
"The best thing about the day is making things ourselves," said Cameron Read from Halesworth Middle School. He was hard at work with scissors and tape with his co-designer, Ben Bradshaw. "Our first glider smashed into a wall and fell to bits - now we've got just five minutes to make a new one," he said.
Antony Chambers, another pupil from Halesworth, said: "This is great fun for me because I might want to be a pilot in the future. I'm good at maths and I've been on a flight simulator in Germany - and they said I did well. The talk from Paul was really interesting."
The pupils' verdict on Cambridge was positive - and that included the vital matter of food. "The lunch at St John's was really good - a buffet with sausage rolls, chicken and éclairs," said Antony's friend, Jens Stohr with genuine appreciation.
The visit was part of a programme designed for Waveney schools by Beth Derks and Wietske Bohncke of www.nodoubledutch.com. Beth said: "One of the main aims of the project is to raise the aspirations and attainments of gifted and talented students in science and maths, and give them a glimpse of the opportunities that exist in engineering, and what better way of doing that than to give them hands-on experience in an inspiring setting. On the coach home pupils and teachers were buzzing with excitement."
All arrangements in Cambridge were made by Chris Cotton, Schools Liaison Officer at St John's College. He said: "We're able to act like a bridge between schools and the outreach resources that exist across the departments. In this case, we put together a programme that offered both a social and academic experience with insights into several aspects of Cambridge - including college life and research - with the accent on putting learning into action."