Lost over Lowestoft and found in Germany - the journey of a Norwich academy’s space lego project
- Credit: Archant
It can be difficult to make new friends when you're young - and near impossible to do so when they live in a different country.
But youngsters at Eaton Hall Specialist Academy in Norwich have struck up an unlikely friendship with a German dog walker - after he rescued a school project they feared was lost.
It began when Simon Hicks, childcare officer at the Right for Success academy, and Steve Cilvert, head of design and technology, tasked a group of pupils from years four up to year nine with constructing a craft that could be launched into the atmosphere - complete with a camera, tracker and Lego crew.
With Neil Armstrong and his space dog - kindly donated by Mr Cilvert's six-year-old son - in place and an easterly wind howling, pupils and staff drove west to pick a launch pad. When they stumbled on aptly-named Eaton Hall Estate, near Ely, it was time to go.
Launched by helium balloon, the mission was soon underway - with pictures, video, location and altitude beamed back to Earth from almost 13 miles up into the atmosphere.
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Mr Cilvert said: 'At this stage, we were happy that we'd achieved something. We'd involved so many pupils, and so many disciplines, that it was seen as a success.'
But contact was soon lost - and the team assumed the balloon had popped.
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'Then suddenly,' Mr Hicks said, 'we started receiving more data. The tracker was still working. We knew by now that our craft had splashed down in the sea some 30km off Lowestoft.
'When the batteries finally died we were sad we'd lost contact. But, we'd achieved something. Despite our speculation that the module would probably end its days on the coast of the Netherlands we knew it had reached 12.8 miles above the earth. That was massive.'
Accepting the project was over, pupils went off for the summer break - but, at the end of September, Mr Hicks received an email from a man called Dieter, who had stumbled on the craft while dog walking on a beach in Germany, spotted the academy's initials and decided to get in touch.
Though Neil and his dog were tragically lost, the camera and tracker was still intact. Dieter mailed it back, along with a map of where it was found, a German newspaper from the day and chocolates and sweets for pupils.
Mr Hicks said: 'It's an amazing, and heart warming, ending to the story. If we'd never heard another thing we would have achieved something the pupils here could be proud of. But for Dieter to find it, with so much of it intact, and data still retrievable from it, is fantastic. And for him to contact us, send it back, with such thoughtful gifts is truly wonderful.'