Five student groups battle it out with plans to visit Mars

The winning team from Portsmouth Grammar School
 Picture: Nicholas Gauntlett
The winning team from Portsmouth Grammar School Picture: Nicholas Gauntlett

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PLANNING a trip to Mars is something that has puzzled scientists for decades but it’s also been at the forefront of 40 teenagers’ minds for the past seven months.

Pupils from five Hampshire sixth forms have been putting their engineering and scientific skills to the test in the Blott Matthews Challenge.

Pupils from Portsmouth High School for Girls   Picture: Malcolm Wells (160305-9721)

Pupils from Portsmouth High School for Girls Picture: Malcolm Wells (160305-9721)

They’ve been studying ion thrusters, nuclear fuel, radiation shielding, plus much more.

And their hard work culminated in a presentation on Saturday when they revealed their plans for a trip to Mars to a room full of experts at Langstone Hotel, In Hayling Island, in a bid to win a share of £5,000.

The student teams – from Portsmouth College, Portsmouth Grammar School, Portsmouth High School, Oaklands Catholic School and Havant College – had to look at all aspects, including exploration tasks, hardware and system design, and cost.

Poppy Wild Smith, 17, was on the Portsmouth High School team.

She said: ‘The whole thing has been really interesting.’

Jack Riman, 17, was on the Portsmouth College team. He was in charge of launch assembly. He said: ‘It’s not something that you get to do every day, but it is something that I want to be able to do in the future.’

Seb Harwood, 17, was on the Portsmouth Grammar School team. He said: ‘I have learnt a lot.

‘It has been a great experience.’

The competition is organised by Richard Blott and Charles Matthews, who contribute the prize fund. It is run in co-operation with national charity Young Engineers, in a bid to spark interests in engineering.

Mr Blott is a chartered electrical engineer, who has chaired the UK Space Science and Exploration Sub-committee and he is co-chairman of the International Astronautical Federation.

Mr Matthews is a graduate professional engineer and a barrister, whose career has been spent in the Royal Navy and in hi-tech industry in the UK and overseas.

The contest was judged by Prof Andrew Coates, head of planetary science at Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory, University College London, Dr Kathryn Graham, team leader at Surrey Satellite Technology, Camilla Blott, from QinetiQ, and Doug Liddle, from In-Space Missions.

They picked Portsmouth Grammar School, as the winners, and they won £2,000.

In second place was Portsmouth High School, with a prize of £1,000.

Portsmouth College, Havant College, Oaklands Catholic School all were awarded merits and £500 each.