A team of sixth-form students from the Isle of Man has won a place in the semi-final of a prestigious global competition founded by late Apollo Astronaut, Pete Conrad.
The five members of Victrix, Joel Harrop, Andy Hopkinson, Calum Johnson, Liam Cain and Liam Dawson, who attend QEII High School in Peel, are busy preparing for the next step in the Spirit of Innovation Challenge, an annual competition run by the Conrad Foundation in the USA.
The Foundation was the brainchild of the late Pete Conrad, a space entrepreneur and Apollo astronaut and his wife, Nancy, supported by Pepsi, Lockheed Martin, and American Express among others.
It’s the fourth year running that Manx company ManSat has sponsored teams from the Island’s high schools to take part in the competition, which offers budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to develop the products of tomorrow.
Judges selected semi-finalist teams in each challenge category and the teams have been invited to develop comprehensive business and technical plans of their product or innovation.
The finals will take place from 6-8 April 2014 at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the home of Mission Control, with semi-final entries being submitted by Thursday, January 16.
Joel Harrop of Team Victrix said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for us and we are delighted to have made it through to the semi-final. We are continuing to research the industry and beginning to develop our idea further as well as looking for contacts within the aviation industry to help us to carry out this research.”
Entered in the ‘aviation and aeronautics’ category, the Victrix product is a modification of the aeroplane wheel, which, if they reach the final, will see the team build a device into the wheel which will cause it to spin before the plane lands – the idea being that this will save rubber on the tyres, and thus mean less tyre changes would be needed. The consequential effects of this would include cheaper maintenance costs, less fossil fuels used to produce the tyres and thus less carbon emissions.
Andy Hopkinson of Victrix explained: ‘By using curved blades, the wheel will only spin in one direction. When the wheels extend, the air resistance will spin a turbine built into the wheel which will spin the wheel as it goes into land. The turbine would only need to be small because of the speed of the aircraft travelling through the air. This means there would not be much added drag to the aircraft.’
Spirit of Innovation student teams are challenged to create innovative products or solutions in one of four industries: aviation and aeronautics; energy and environment; health and nutrition; and cyber-security and technology. It’s open to students aged 13-18 and full details can be found at: http://www.conradawards.org/
Nancy Conrad said: ‘In 2010, students from the Isle of Man were the first successful international teams to participate in the Spirit of Innovation Challenge. We are thrilled to once again have students from the Island continue their community’s proud legacy of innovation. We wish them all the best as they prepare their business and technical plans for this round of competition.’
ManSat CEO Chris Stott said: ‘The Spirit of Innovation is a fantastic initiative that challenges the students with real world business experience which is why we’re delighted to be involved with it again in support of our students here at home on the Isle of Man.’
ManSat was the originator of the Island’s space industry following its formation in 1998 and continues to drive the sector forward. Working in partnership with the Isle of Man Government, its core function is carrying out satellite filing on behalf of the Isle of Man Communications Commission.
Over the last 13 years, ManSat has developed strong ties with the Department of Education and Children and Manx schools. As well as its work with the Conrad Foundation, each year since 2000 the company has sponsored two scholarships for Island year 12 students to study for two weeks with the NASA United Space School in Houston, Texas.
Tim Crookall MHK, Minister for Education and Children, said: ‘ManSat is a strong supporter of education in the Island and I’d like to thank Chris and his team for their ongoing generosity. It’s a fantastic achievement by the students involved with Victrix and I wish them well as they bid to reach the final.’
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