SA learners enter Bloodhound competition

2013-05-24 10:29
Andy Green poses with a Bloodhound model. (Bloodhound)

Andy Green poses with a Bloodhound model. (Bloodhound)

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Cape Town - Learners from schools across the Northern Cape province have entered a competition to design a helmet for the pilot of the supersonic car that will be raced in the province.

Around 420 learners from 25 schools in the province designed a helmet for Andy Green who will pilot the Bloodhound supersonic car.

Green is expected to pilot the car to a speed of 1 600km/h on the Hakskeen Pan in a project about speed, but also one that aims to raise the interest in science and engineering among young people.

"It was definitely not an easy task to design this helmet, as the young designers were asked to feature elements of the Northern Cape and include the blue and orange colours of Bloodhound SSC in their designs," said Dave Rowley, education director for the Bloodhound SSC Project in South Africa.

Driving the 7 ton car will be a challenge as the driver is subject to incredible forces.

Technical challenges

"There are also some quite high levels of acceleration and that's probably the one thing that would most surprise and disorientate some people. Accelerations of 2G, which is 65km/h per second; just closing the throttle and 1 600km/h - the drag is so high the car will slow down at 3G - that's 100km/h per second," Green told News24.

Green said that most people will G-forces push the body to extremes, but as a fighter pilot, it's what he expects.

"Drive at 100km/h and imagine coming to a stop in one second - that's a 3G deceleration. That would qualify as a reasonable sized crash in most people's experience. That would be normal operating for this car."

The group has been working on the car for six years and Green was involved from Day 1.

"I was involved from the very first design meeting where the first sketches of the jet engine and a rocket were produced and we started manipulating the shape to work out how we could package it; how we could structurally make it."

He said that technical challenges took a long time to resolve to ensure that the vehicle was safe to drive.

"The single biggest technical challenge underlying all of this: How do you keep it on the ground? That's the bit where we got probably the highest level of confidence. It's technically the most difficult bit; it took us five years to find the optimum shape or series of shapes to actually keep the vehicle on the ground at all speeds."


Education forms a big part of the effort and several schools have signed up be part of the process as the team builds toward their world record attempt.

"We've a huge education programme: We've got dozens of schools already signed up and more signing up every day in the Northern Cape and across South Africa. We've have thousands of schools in the UK already signed up," said Green.

He said that the legacy of the project rests on a generation of young people who will get excited by science and technology, rather than the speed record.

"Is our legacy a museum car that did 1 600km/h once upon a time? No, that's how we get there. The legacy is a whole group of young kids who look at science and technology in a completely different way."

All 422 helmet design entries will be sent to the UK for judging by a panel, including Green and two winners, one from the UK and one from SA, will be announced.

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