Professor Anu Ohja, Director of the National Space Academy, inspired and excited the 250 students from South Wigston, Babington Community College and Lancaster School, all high attainers, with his lecture, ‘Space – so what?’.
Professor Ohja set out to demonstrate the impact that space exploration has on earth – looking inwards – tracking tides and storms and at its earliest incarnation discovering the ozone hole over the Antarctic in the 1960s and now the monitoring the affect of global warming. Anu demonstrated the simplicity of launching a rocket by setting fire to ethanol in a ‘whoosh bottle’, and relating it to the enormous amount of fuel needed to send a full sized rocket into space.
Looking outwards into space, he produced clear images of Saturn and the small ice planet which for sometime was discounted as of little interest but on further investigation found to have volcanic eruptions of water.
Anu talked about his career achievements and encouraged the assembled students to think ‘out of the box’ and how they should aspire to use their abilities to succeed in their future careers which could be in Space science.
The annual lecture sponsored by the Lit and Phil as part of our outreach engagement with young people ran for many years at the University of Leicester when introduced by Professor John Holloway but because of changes in the school curriculum and administrative difficulties in schools it fell into abeyance.
It has been hard work to get it up and running again and to communicate constructively with the schools but with persistence, Hilary Lewis and Ann Fuchs managed to re-launch it six years ago.
For three years now it has been held at South Wigston High School where the head teacher, Sue Webb, has been very helpful and enthusiastic and has extended the invitation to attend to other schools. It is aimed at high achievers aged 14-16. The speakers we have chosen are distinguished experts in their field and, for example previous lecturers have been Professor Lloyd Peck and Dr John King from British Antarctic Survey. Also Professor Chris Szejnmann from Loughborough University gave a lecture on the Holocaust which was requested by students themselves after meeting with them.
Our other involvement with young people is with our prizes to graduating students in English in the 3 local universities.
The Lit and Phil lectures are open to anyone and students can attend for £1.