IOP joins historians and RAF to launch schools project in centenary year

18 January 2018

IOP has teamed up with the RAF and the Historical Association to create the RAF100 Schools Project, launched at Bentley Priory Museum with the help of the RAF’s first female pilot, some school students and experts in how technological development has been entwined with the history of the RAF over the last 100 years.

IOP joins historians and RAF to launch schools project in centenary year

The project uses the professional understanding of historians and physicists working in education to create a learning opportunity for schools, STEM clubs and youth organisations in the context of the RAF’s centenary in 2018.

As well as resources, videos and activities that can be downloaded from the project’s website, it invites young people to take part in a nationwide competition to discover more about one of the hundreds of RAF bases that have existed in the UK and to contribute to an interactive map with the story of the base, the technology that has been used there and how that might develop in the future.

IOP joins historians and RAF to launch schools project in centenary year

IOP School Support Manager Taj Bhutta, who is leading on the project for IOP, spoke at the launch on 17 January to describe how urgent needs have driven the development of technology in aircraft design, radar and encrypted digital communication – three of the areas explored in the project – with physicists involved at every stage in what are ongoing areas of research and application.

Speaking to school students who took part, Group Captain Paul Sanger-Davies painted a picture of a future in which we may be able to call up a flying unmanned vehicle, and even explore the galaxy or terraform other planets. Mentioning the global challenges that we face, he said: “Where are we going to go in the next 100 years and where are you young people going to take us?”

The school students toured the museum and took part in a workshop to build model gliders and investigate balanced flight – one of the activities available from the website, where all resources are free to download.

Among the current or former RAF personnel there to support the launch of the project was Julie Gibson, the RAF’s first female pilot, who joined the service in 1984, having been sponsored by the RAF in her last year of an aeronautical engineering degree at City University, where she was one of just two female students among 200 people in her year on engineering courses. She served as a pilot for 11 years and as an engineering officer she managed people maintaining equipment, which drew on her scientific and engineering knowledge and skills as these helped her to understand the time and the parts required and the complexity of any maintenance job, she said.

IOP joins historians and RAF to launch schools project in centenary year

Speaking about the launch, Group Captain Sanger-Davies said: “As we celebrate 100 years since the formation of the Royal Air Force, we want to use this opportunity to share our story with the nation. I’m delighted to join with the Historical Association and Institute of Physics to launch the RAF100 Schools Project. As part of our nationwide youth and education programme, this project will help educate young people through a unique combination of history and physics.”

Rebecca Sullivan, Chief Executive of the Historical Association, said: “Bringing the two disciplines of history and physics together to help young people explore the role and impact human actions have had in creating the modern world has been really exciting. We are proud to have had a role in enabling young people to engage with the rich history and legacy of the RAF in their centenary year.”

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