January 2015
Contents / home
Bloodhound's supersonic quest
Deputy Minister visits SAASTA
SAASTA Highlights Report
SAASTA takes science to Beijing
Natural Science Olympiad
Community media pilot project
Crystallography kits for schools
PUB celebrates 10 years of biotech
Reaching visually impaired learners
School debate finals
Science communication workshops
KAT-7 seen as design highlight
Meet Nithaya Chetty
Eskom Expo 2014
SKA SA exhibits at BRICS EXPO
Algoa Bay Hope Spot launched
Inspiring environmental scientists
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Bloodhound's supersonic quest to inspire future scientists and engineers

  An L39 jet aircraft ready to fly over the Bloodhound's specially prepared desert track during the speed communications test at Hakskeen Pan
  The jet is synchronised with two Jaguars (a new all-wheel-drive Jaguar F-TYPE R coupé and a Jaguar XF), reaching speeds of up to 800 km/h beneath it
  SAASTA ICT Coordinator Nhlanhla Madide admires the new all-wheel-drive Jaguar F-Type R Coupé used in the test
South Africa has the biggest and firmest dried-out ancient lake bed in the world. Hakskeen Pan, located about 260 km from Upington in the Northern Cape, is pretty flat too. To put it in numbers, the total variation in elevation over the 2 km strip is a mere 61 mm.

These are the reasons why Hakskeen Pan has been selected as the location for one of the biggest engineering adventures ever. The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), a jet-and-rocket-powered car, will attempt to break the land-speed record in Hakskeenpan in 2015 and 2016 on a track meticulously cleared by 300 members of the local Groot Mier community.

Bloodhound may be the world's fastest racing car, but the much publicised attempt to break the land-speed record is not its only focus. "It is an iconic project designed to inspire future scientists and engineers by sharing the excitement of this engineering adventure and engaging educators and families," says project director Richard Noble.

The Bloodhound project's special education programme is intended to get educators, learners and the general public enthused about science and engineering. In this regard, the project is sharing the research, data, design, manufacturing and testing for the car with as many educators, learners and students as possible around the world, but with a focus on South Africa and the UK.

In South Africa, this objective slots neatly into the Youth into Science strategy of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which is aimed at building a pipeline of engineers, researchers and scientist. Recognising the need to support the engagement with the media and the educational and outreach activities of the science and engineering associated with the project, the DST commissioned SAASTA in 2014 to become actively involved in these programmes.

Recent projects involving SAASTA staff members include the following:

Bloodhound media event

In November 2014, the Bloodhound team ran a successful test of the locally developed high-speed communication technology necessary for the record attempt at Hakskeen Pan. The event also provided an opportunity to thank the Groot Mier community, the Northern Cape Provincial Government and the South African sponsors for making the attempt possible.

MTN, through the MTN Foundation, built a state-of-the-art computer laboratory for the learners of Groot Mier Primary. Now the children of Groot Mier not only have their horizons broadened by the internet, but they can link up to the school in Bristol, the school close to where the actual supersonic car is being built and exchange and share knowledge. Some of the fastest internet in the country can be found in the middle of the Northern Cape; in fact the children of Groot Mier have faster connectivity than their counterparts in Bristol.

A brand new Jaguar all-wheel drive F type was unveiled for the tests, driven by the second fastest man in the world, Richard Noble. The first day focused on technical checking and filming and the second day consisted of a low-level, high-speed flyover of an Albatros L39 jet in view of the media. The jet was synchronised with two Jaguars (a new all-wheel-drive Jaguar F-TYPE R coupé and a Jaguar XF).

The Jaguars carried the same equipment that will stream data, voice and imagery live from the Bloodhound Supersonic car during test runs and record attempts in 2015 and 2016. The activities confirmed that the project's entire radio infrastructure was in place, ready for 2015 and the beginning of Bloodhound's high-speed campaign.

The aim of the second day activity was to provide an opportunity to test camera positions and technology ahead of the 2015 record attempt for the Bloodhound SCC; to generate high-quality footage for Bloodhound documentaries and film to provide a compelling news hook and visual for media, both locally and internationally.

SAASTA facilitated the attendance of seven journalists to this event.

Watch a video of the test.

Kalahari Speed Week

The Kalahari Speed Week Festival in September 2014 focused on speed and innovation. The audience was fascinated by the Bloodhound Education team's presentation of a STEM-based rocket display that focused on the importance of science and mathematics in model rocketry, with a direct link to the Bloodhound SSC. After the presentation, two sets of three model rockets each were launched using radio control.

Dave Rowley and Wendy Maxwell (Bloodhound SSC's South African Education Manager) visited four local primary schools on 27 September 2014 to distribute resources and engage learners on their 'wire-car' building projects. Rowley heads the education programme in South Africa, where 700 schools participate in the programme. Of these, 97 schools are situated in the Northern Cape.

World Space Week

World Space Week has grown into the largest global public space event in South Africa. The 2014 satellite navigation theme, "Space: Guiding Your Way", was aimed at inspiring participation around the world.

The 2014 Space Science Open Day, which was held at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, attracted a large number of learners. The Bloodhound Education team participated in the Open Day through exhibitions and engagement with learners. The team was accompanied by rocketeers who launched an exhibition rocket for all. The rocket, Kalahari 1, celebrated its third successful launch with complete deployment of both drogue and main parachutes.

This was followed by a rocket-building workshop for 536 learners conducted by the Bloodhound Education team. The workshop concluded with the launch of a second, smaller model rocket. Designing and building rockets is an activity that provides an educational overview of science, mathematics and engineering.

SAASTEC post-conference workshop

A post-conference workshop was conducted at the 16th SAASTEC Conference to support science centres to promote Bloodhound in their centres and to identify relevant and appropriate resources.

The car, currently being built in the UK, will arrive in South Africa in 2015 for a series of test runs at speeds of up to 1 300 km/h, breaking the sound barrier and improving on the current land-speed record of 1 228 km/h.

For more information on this exciting project and its myriad scientific opportunities, please contact Anacletta Koloko.


Venter, I: Hakskeen Pan wheel tests for 2016: Bloodhound land-speed record attempt complete, Engineering News, September 6, 2013

Brooks, G: In the middle of nowhere: A 1,000 mph car and really fast internet, Daily Maverick, November 12, 2014

Mthethwa, Z: First Bloodhound high-speed communication tests successfully executed, DST Newsletter, November 2014