L5 and M5 Paris Exchange Easter 2018

In March, 12 pupils (along with Mrs Watkinson and Dr Boutemy) travelled to Paris to take part in this year's L5 and M5 Paris Exchange.

On arrival at the Gare du Nord, everyone was a little nervous – pupils had never met their exchange partners before, and were about to spend a week staying with them! Fortunately, all of the host families were really friendly.  

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The week was jam-packed with museum visits, sightseeing tours, cinema trips, and more! Highlights included taking photos from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, shopping on the Champs Elysées, and learning about the Opéra Garnier with a slightly odd but very funny tour guide. Over the weekend, pupils were spoilt rotten by their host families. Some were taken to watch football and rugby matches, whilst others visited the Science Museum, Disneyland, and the Eiffel Tower. Trips to Normandy and to a TV studio were also on the agenda!

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We had a great week, and pupils enjoyed exploring Paris, making new friends, eating lots of croissants and speaking French. All agreed that being immersed in French culture is definitely one of the best ways of improving language skills!

The French pupils will return to stay with their exchange partners in June, and we look forward to welcoming them to Norwich.

Start of term address by the Head Master

Head Master, Steffan Griffiths, addressed pupils this morning in a thought-provoking assembly at the start of the Trinity term...

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This morning’s reading connects wisdom and humility, contrasting it with actions which arise from envy or “selfish ambition”:

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

This is an interesting area after a holiday in which the leadership group of Australia’s cricket team was sacked and roundly criticised for deliberately seeking to alter the condition of the ball during an international match, and when there has been a week of extraordinary fightbacks in various sports matches, both here and abroad.

The England netball team managed to win both the semi-final and final in the Commonwealth Games with the last shot of the game, while the teams of Juventus, Roma and Liverpool offer good examples from men’s sport. Interesting stuff too on the day that we welcome Kate Richardson-Walsh, the captain of the GB women’s hockey team, which famously won Olympic gold in Rio in similarly thrilling circumstances. Sport is obviously not the only forum to observe group culture and teamwork under pressure, but it does offer a high-profile but relatively safe prism through which to investigate how group dynamics work.

 Kate Richardson-Walsh with Norwich School pupils

Kate Richardson-Walsh with Norwich School pupils

I was going to include Manchester United in this last list, but their capitulation yesterday handed the Premier League title to Manchester City, the very local rivals they had fought back to deny last week. Matthew Syed, former international table tennis player and now newspaper columnist, believes that the issues at Man United stem from the culture of leadership at the club. When they were knocked out of the Champions League by Seville earlier this season, he identified that the manager, Jose Mourinho, used 25 first person pronouns in the first few minutes of his press conference. Syed identified this as narcissistic leadership, comparing Mourinho to a study by Hambrick and Chatterjee which found that the size of the picture of a company’s CEO in the annual report was closely correlated to this leadership style; its most obvious example was Enron, the multinational which spectacularly fell from grace at the turn of the century. How bizarre that such a relatively trivial measure as a photo can be traced as evidence of an institution-wide culture; I will have to think carefully about what goes up in the Bishop’s Parlour when the time comes.

The implication from these case studies is that if the values behind the leadership are not right, over time the outcomes are unlikely to be right either. As James would have it in the reading, more wisdom and humility, less ambition and envy.

By contrast, I encourage you to investigate the leadership of one Ludwig Guttmann. A Jew who came to the UK to flee Nazi Germany before World War Two, Guttmann is the founder of the Paralympic movement, having established a national centre for spinal injuries at Stoke Mandeville in 1943. Throughout his remarkable life, there are countless examples where he overcomes obstacles personally and for his patients through a combination of determination, vision and care for others. Most of all, he recognised the humanity of the physically disabled and the healing power of motivation and hope. It seems extraordinary to us after watching the seamless integration of para-events at the Commonwealth Games that Guttmann seems to have been the first to do so only 70 years ago. You can find out more by visiting the National Paralympic Heritage Trust exhibition, which can be found behind me in the North Transept in the first half of this term. I commend it to you.

“I commend it to you” is something I say a lot from up here when we advertise a new show, concert or exhibition. I challenge you actually to follow up on these recommendations: tutors, take your pupils to see this exhibition; pupils, ask your tutor to take you. Towards the end of last term, we had some simply stellar offerings such as the Senior Play, the Choral Society Concert with the London Mozart Players or the Careers Evening. Money was no barrier for attendance to members of the school but I am not sure the take-up by the Norwich School community was as positive as it might have been.

 Norwich School Choral Society performing with the London Mozart Players

Norwich School Choral Society performing with the London Mozart Players

When we get it right, our cultural offerings are not just “good for a school” or “good for children”, they are good by an absolute standard of ambition and quality. Part of our aim in offering a rounded education is to give you the chance to see such things while you are here; they broaden your experience and widen your perspective. The Young Norfolk Arts Festival, the outreach sister event to our own Gather 18 Festival, sets as its aim to offer young people the chance “to watch and perform, to organise and record” cultural activities of different kinds. I think we at Norwich School are good at the performing and we are getting better at organising and recording. Let’s make sure that we don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch, too.

With several plays coming up at the start of term and Gather ‘18 on the horizon, I look forward to seeing you in the audience soon. And in between, there is the matter of some quizzes for all of us. More from me on them tomorrow, but my main message will be to keep them in perspective.

I hope you all have a good term.

 

 

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The Senior Play 2018: Judgement Day

Two Norwich School pupils give an inside insight into what it was like to be part of the Senior Play 2018, 'Judgement Day'.

 The cast of Judgement Day 

The cast of Judgement Day 

"A whirlwind few months with a company who never failed to be there for one another, or to commit. From the stage management crew to our technical team who joined the crew at the Puppet Theatre, to put on such a amazing show for us. 

Working towards the performances of Judgement Day was an adventure in itself. The line learning, the activities and changes; the crew were all so caring and focused, even when nerves kicked in. The atmosphere surrounding the group was so energising and close it felt sad to realise that on Friday night, after our final show, that was the end of the magnificent journey we had taken together.

The week of the performance was like a silenced steam locomotive. With the coal being our drive, excitement and compassion for one another and the steam being the nights we put on, the laughs and the unmissable vibes that were reverberating from person to person, throughout the rehearsal period right the way through to the last bow.

The entire company owes a huge thanks to Ms Ziegler and the individuals at the Puppet Theatre for the time we had and for teaching us things you can’t find in a classroom." 

Akshita Brahma

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"For five weeks, a talented cast of actors, set designers, directors and creative leaders worked tirelessly on making the Senior Play ‘Judgment Day’ a success. Though exhausted by the end of the process, spirits and morale remained high and the ultimate result was worth every second.

The rehearsal process, lead by our very own Ms Ziegler, was a long and at times tedious process of reading and re-reading lines. Going over each scene until it ran smoothly and effortlessly. Exercises and warm-ups included activities which aimed to keep the cast in sync and strengthen bonds - many of which are sure to last a lifetime.

Despite the setback of missing our final week of rehearsals due to the snow days, the final three productions were each a large success and the whole cast should be immensely proud of themselves. Many questions were flying through the heads of everyone towards the end of rehearsals, with everyone asking whether or not we were truly ready. How would I know when to come on stage? What if I fall through the massive hole in the middle of the floor? We weren’t given the chance to have a full run-through before the first performance, and so when that went smoothly and almost without fault, minds were set at ease and confidence grew. Being able to perform in an ancient space such as the Puppet Theatre was an incredible experience in itself, and being able to perform with such a fantastic cast and crew just made the whole experience spectacular.

Thanks should go not only to Ms Ziegler, Mr Simpson, Mr Webber and the rest of the fantastic team at Norwich School, but also to Darren and the rest of the crew at the Puppet Theatre. They work constantly to keep the theatre alive and running for almost nothing, and having them on board to help with our show was a truly humbling and wonderful experience. We were able to learn more about the theatre, and Darren’s many stories about the building kept spirits high, even through the 12 hour rehearsals. Thanks to Darren and his team, our play was truly able to come alive on stage."

Isabella Comer

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End of Lent Term address by The Head Master, Steffan Griffiths

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There is a phrase which I have struggled to get my head around in recent weeks, even though it has been used a good deal in the media and even though it relates to something of which I have professional experience and in which I have a deep interest. The phrase is armed teacher. You will be aware that it is a serious political proposal in the USA for legislative change in light of a mass shooting which took place in Florida last month. Now I understand an arms teacher: like anything, if you want to get better at something you might want to be taught how to do so; knowing how to handle weapons might involve going to someone who can teach you to do that. But a teacher being armed is something different: that is to say that someone will be carrying a weapon while involved in education of a different discipline, usually of young people. As someone who believes in holistic, values-based education, for me an armed teacher seems paradoxical, almost a contradiction in terms.  I certainly had sympathy with American teachers reacting to the proposals, such as:

 “Anyone advocating such legislation has no understanding of what goes on in schools or doesn’t care”.

And another:

“Arm me with pencils so my students can write new laws”.

I am aware that this is not a situation we are going to have to confront in the UK any time soon because of the very different gun laws over here. However, for me it has thrown light onto the importance of what we try to do at Norwich School. Yes, we certainly want you to get better at maths, English, creative subjects, languages and sciences, establishing a broad base of knowledge and skills before specialising as you get towards the top of the school. We are also fortunate that we can encourage you to discover interests or enhance skills outside the classroom. Yet we are most pleased when, along with your families, we teach you how to treat others appropriately and practise behaviours such as being caring, humble or altruistic.

And there is one thing to come out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting which I think is positive. It is the proactive attitude of the students of that school and others of their age around the world who have entered the debate on gun control and are emerging as an effective political voice. Indeed, they seem to be the only group able to challenge the power of the gun lobby in the USA, centred on the National Rifle Association (the NRA). It is early days but several leading firms have ended preferential deals for NRA members and there are more public voices taking an anti-NRA stance. Why should this be? Scott Galloway, a marketing professor in the USA, said this:

“The most valuable person in the world of consumer business is an 18 year-old. Their recent galvanisation on the issue has made the NRA very uncool”.

It may seem counter-intuitive to be talking about such an emotive issue in terms of marketing, but no appeal to values has worked in the last generation, even after incidents such as Sandy Hook or Las Vegas, so the courting of American young people by business to effect change will do just fine. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with this issue yourselves, but I hope you take their proactivity as an example: be engaged with the world around you; work out what you care about and do something about it.

And we all know there are plenty of issues about which to be animated in the modern world. I think the difference is that issues such as the Brexit referendum and US gun control have directly impacted on your generation and made you realise not only that you can get involved but that you should get involved. I hope that Norwich School is giving you values and platforms for behaviour which will encourage you to participate in ways which will improve situations for you and those around you.

For example, I know that there will be a spectrum of political views among you and that is fine; there will be Leavers and Remainers, Conservatives, Labour supporters and those of other parties. However, I am afraid that I am not giving you carte blanche to say or do whatever you like. Unlike Ewan Brett’s excellent address to us this week about the Youth Parliament, candidacy for the Junior Monster Raving Loony Party is not going to happen any time soon and I am not about to give this platform to anyone for any cause.

I want to couch my guidance on different lines, lines which are apolitical: you go to a school which is based on a loving, compassionate community. Belief in such values is what we wish to instil in you and hope you will take as leaders into the wider world when you leave Cathedral Close. How you act on it is up to you: you may be inspired to target the global community’s sustainable environment because of what you have done in our Green Group; it may be interpreted as a focus on individuals facing difficulties through work as a peer supporter or community service. It might even lead you to consider a career in unarmed teaching.

At this time of year, we think of the Easter story and we have been helped by the Chaplain’s ABC this term: atonement, baptism, cross. Whether Christian or not, these subjects and the related key themes of love, sacrifice and forgiveness are helpful guides for our lives today; they are certainly interwoven with the school’s ethos. These themes are not restricted to adults but apply just as much to young people; I encourage you to absorb them and see if you can put them in practice.

I wish you all a restful holiday.

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View from the Pulpit: ‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ Repton 200 assembly

Jack Brandford, Curate and ON 2006-2008, spoke in Cathedral assembly on the 9th March about Humphry Repton and how, 200 years on, we can still learn from his positivity through failure. 

John 12:23-24

23 Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

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Good morning school, my name is Jack and I am a Curate (or trainee Vicar). This basically means, among other things, that when I grow up, I want to be just like Mr Child. As well as being a trainee vicar, I also used to come to this school, and to be honest, looking around this morning, I don’t think much has changed in the past 10 years. The blue blazers are the same; Mr Curtis is still about 3 feet taller than me; (depressingly) Mr Bateman can still grow a better beard than me; and you guys clearly still have ONs coming into assembly to send you all to sleep first thing in the morning - so lucky you!

Now I’m not sure if this has changed, but when I was here we were regularly told this famous maxim, ‘If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ Generally, I was given this advice as part of the Holy Trinity of comments that my teachers seemed to regularly need to say to me personally for some reason or another: ‘Jack, do up your top button’; ‘Jack, get a haircut’; ‘Jack, if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’ We also heard it a fair bit from the front in assembly too though, and for very good reason. Preparation whether for exams, a concert, or a rugby match, is really important and it will usually make a big difference on the day. But perhaps, just sometimes, that saying needs to be qualified; because sometimes in life we will prepare, and we will still fail. Sometimes, an exam won’t go our way. Sometimes, we can train as hard as we possibly can but ‘the Gresh’ will still nick a late winner. Sometimes, we won’t get our first choice of uni. That can be hard, but that is a reality of life.

So yes, if you fail to prepare, you should probably prepare to fail. But if you do fail, or loose, or fall short of your expectations, at whatever it might be it can be helpful to remember another little adage. This saying, is taken from one of the great philosophical works of the 20th century - Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. ‘From the ashes of failure, grow the roses of success.’ You see, failures in many ways are priceless because they give us the feedback that we need to take the steps, to make the changes we need to make, to grow, to evolve and generally to do better.

Which brings me on nicely to the reason I’m actually here. I’ve been asked to come into school this morning to speak about another ON. An ON who really knew the truth of that statement, ‘from the ashes of failure, grow the roses of success.’ This guy was a serial failure. He was at this school for two years, but didn’t do particularly well in his studies, so he followed his Father into business. He set up in Norwich as a textile merchant, but the business failed. He had several rather unsuccessful years in politics before taking on another commercial venture where he invested in a system of mail coaches. This business almost made him bankrupt while his friend, and fellow investor, John Palmer made a fortune.

However, from those ashes of failure, he learnt many things. Eventually, he set out on one final business venture in which he sold his services as a ‘landscape gardener’ the first person ever to use that term. His gardens quickly became very popular and have left a lasting legacy. His works survive in London at Kensington Gardens, Russell Square and Bloomsbury. The royal parks and gardens of Regent’s Park, St James’ Park and the Brighton Pavilion were laid out according to his designs. Here in Norfolk we have two fine examples of his work at Catton Park and Sheringham Park. He was so famous during his life time that he made cameo appearances in Jane Austin novels, and after his death, he had a House named after him at Norwich School. He is of course, Humphry Repton.

Repton is actually buried in the churchyard where I work in Aylsham and this year is the 200th anniversary of his death. Our church is heavily involved with a national festival, starting at the end of this month, to celebrate his life. There will be concerts, lectures, workshops, children’s activity days, pensioners’ activity days, art shows, documentary films, a Repton Gin is being distilled! It’s all very exciting and I know lots of you in Repton House have already volunteered to help at some of those events so thank you so much for that.

It is perhaps, quite poignant though, to stop and think that this serial failure of a man, is being remembered 200 years on, not for his failures but for his successes. His legacy of beautiful gardens that have given joy to millions. From the ashes of failure, grow the roses of success. In Repton’s case, this is quite literally true as his grave is basically a Rose garden. There is a tablet in this garden with a very telling little verse written on it which talks about his remains ‘blending, melting into the Earth, to give form and colour to the Rose, whose vivid blossoms will cheer mankind.’

Even when Repton’s biological processes that kept him alive failed, he managed to turn that into something positive, something that gave life. His very body was used as food for roses to bring people a little bit of cheer. And perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us considering the great horticulturalist he was. He would have known only two well that in nature the apparent failure of death often brings successful new life. An apple, is alive on a tree, when it falls to the ground, detached from its life-giving tree, it is dead. If the conditions are right though, it will produce new life in a new tree. The death of the fruit brings life. It’s almost as if this death bringing life cycle is hard wired into creation. As if God has made it that the apparent failure of death, is in fact, the engine of life.

This is of course, the picture of creation that Jesus used in our Bible passage, ‘when the grain falls into the earth’, it brings new life, new fruit. Jesus is of course hinting to his friends about his own coming death. His death on the cross would have been seen as an enormous failure to all of those around him at the time, but Christians believe that it was the apparent failure of the cross that brings the ultimate success of new life to the whole world.

So, remember the lesson of Repton’s life. Work hard, be as prepared as you possibly can be. Knowing that sometimes we will all fail. That doesn’t mean though, that if we learn from our failures, that greater success won’t be just around the corner.

Amen

View from the Pulpit: Singing and Community

Mrs Grote, Head of Classics, reflects on what Friday means to her and how singing can bring us all together and form a greater sense of community. 

I’m always pleased when it gets to Friday

Much like you I’m sure. It’s the end of the week. There’s Fish and Chips. Tutorial with the wonderful U6E, my weekly meeting with the even more wonderful Doctor Farr. Those are reasons to look forward to Friday. But moreover, on a Friday, you can be fairly sure of a good hymn. And with a good hymn, you can enjoy a good sing.

But what about the actual act of singing a hymn? Yes, it can be an awkward activity, perhaps especially for a teenage group. Will I get it wrong? Will my voice stand out? What if I sound silly? What will the person next to me think if I give it a go? Some may dislike it, but we have all experienced Mr Allain’s attempts to wake us from morning slumber with a variety of games, all clever disguises to get us singing well. Naughty true or false questions, impossible teasers involving counting numbers or shapes. Who can forget his attempt to get us all, including the Head Master, “dabbing” in time to the music? 

Mr Allain has science to support him in his quest to get us singing. An Institute of Education study concluded that singing increases oxygenation in the blood and exercises major muscle groups. Furthermore, when people sing together, there is an increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour. You simply can’t sing a hymn so well by yourself; you can try, but it won’t be as satisfying. Singing affects our endocrine system, concerning both our hormones and emotional well-being. A UEA research project recommended singing as a low-commitment, low-cost tool for mental health recovery. This is because, when singing, our bodies release those same hormones as when we are eating something we enjoy: endorphins that bring us pleasure and alleviate anxiety. It should be the same feeling you get when you eat a bar of chocolate, but without the calories. As well as making us healthy, singing keeps us so. After performing a complex choral work, higher levels of immune proteins were found in the saliva of choristers. So, were you to take a deep breath, and sing, confidently, you could be smug in the knowledge that your immunity could end up being better than that of your non singing friends.

Charles Hubert Parry wrote the melody for today’s hymn. The 170th anniversary of his birth is next Tuesday; the centenary of his death will be marked later this year, alongside the end of WWI.

Perhaps most well-known to us at Norwich School is Parry’s setting of William Blake’s, Jerusalem, often sung as an anthem of community or even national pride. Parry and his wife, Maude, themselves passionately campaigned for women’s suffrage, but would they have ever anticipated how Parry’s setting of Blake’s words would have such lasting power, for rugby fans and The WI alike?

Parry also blends text, melody and harmony in other choral music. In Blest Pair of Sirens, Parry takes the words of poetic great, John Milton, who describes the combined, divine power of Voice and Verse, before wishing that we too may be able to answer such song with our singing. In his six Songs of Farewell, composed by Parry as he was suffering from a serious heart condition, and approaching his death, Parry considers his mortality and reflects on his faith, but using the words of poets. Dying a mere month before the end of WWI, Parry did not live to see the peace he so longed for, yet his choice of texts in these pieces certainly demonstrates an exploration of what happens after death, if not a firm creed: There is an old belief / That on some solemn shore / Beyond the spheres of grief / Dear friends can meet once more.

Returning to today’s hymn you might be amused to know that Parry found the text of Dear Lord and Father of Mankind in a long, eccentric poem describing a Hindu practice of whipping up religious enthusiasm by drinking intoxicating, hallucinogenic concoctions. Not, of course, what we are encouraging you to do this morning. The text’s author, an American Quaker, actually deeply disapproved of singing in church: he firmly believed that God was best worshipped in silent meditation. A far cry from what our cathedral, organ and, sometimes, even trumpets, encourage from us on a daily basis. But perhaps such silent meditation is not so far from what Parry was aiming for when concluding his hymn with a prayer, not only a wish for the removal of strain and stress from our lives, but for us to be able to find a small voice of calm when life becomes too frantic.

I urge you, whatever the hymn, whether you know it or not, to consider the words as well as the tune…  There are messages within.

I shall finish with the words of three others, all experts and advisors in their own ways.

At the conclusion of the Gryffindor house feast, and after the singing of the school song, Albus Dumbledore remarks “Ah, music! A magic beyond all we do here!" Reminding us that even in wizard world, singing together counts as a potent collective enterprise.   

A ‘Time’ magazine journalist recorded the health impact of singing: “It is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out.  It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.”

And finally, St Augustine notes that “He who sings, prays twice.” Reminding us that for many, a hymn is more than just words and music.

Whichever of these – the wizard, the journalist, or the priest - is most appropriate to you, I hope that an interest in music, or words, or science or religion will offer you a reason to keep on singing. 

I return to the words of St Augustine:

So my friends, let us sing Alleluia… let us sing as travellers sing on a journey, but keep on walking. Lighten your toil by singing and never be idle. Sing, but keep on walking. Advance in virtue, true faith, and right conduct. Sing up – and keep on walking.

VEX Robotic Coding Club

Mr Jenkins, Head of Digital Learning at Norwich School talks to us about robots. 

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What does your role as Head of Digital Learning at Norwich School involve?

The role includes everything from evaluating effective digital platforms and techniques that will support excellent teaching and learning, to setting up the Computer Studies department by overseeing the development and delivery of curricular courses and extra-curricular activities across school. This has included the implementation of new L5, GCSE and A Level Computer Science courses all in the same academic year. I hope these new courses and opportunities will inspire and nurture enthusiastic developers and inventors of the future. I chair the e-Safety committee and also facilitate training on digital learning, providing bespoke skills updates for teaching staff and departments. 

 

You recently started the VEX Robotic Coding Club, can you tell us what motivated you to?

Having a club for the younger age groups was important and the aims of the VEX Robotic Coding Club was to give the pupils the opportunity to learn some hands-on engineering skills when building the robots, learning to code them to move and perform tasks in a very tangible and fun way.

 

When did it the VEX Robotic Coding Club launch? 

Thanks to securing a very generous donation from  Friends of Norwich School, we launched in late September, when the robot kits arrived. We meet every Friday lunchtime.

 

How many pupils attend the club?

We have four robots teams with either three of four members in each.

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What has the club worked on so far?

So far all the robots are built and some are pimped up with additional ...modifications! They have been tested with the driver remote controllers and programmed for autonomous movement by flashing instructions to the ROM chips. Each week the group think of a challenges that the robots must do and have competitions to develop the best solutions.

 

How has technology enhanced learning in schools?

The VEX Robotics Coding Club teams take it in turns to take pictures and contribute to the VEX blog (https://nsvexcodingrobotics.wordpress.com/), so people can keep up to date with our progress. The club reinforce in-class learning for those pupils currently studying Computer Science and it also gives a fun taster to those who have yet to start a formal academic course. It is more than just a 'toe in the water' of a new subject. 

 

What do you think the future looks like for robotics, coding and digital learning?

I would love to have more girls studying the subject. I also hope the club will grow and as the pupils knowledge expands, the robots we have created will begin to do some really complex operations. We may yet have a robot with built in artificial intelligence (AI) ready to replace me as a teacher! I would also like to continue to support local social enterprise like the Techathon on the last two days of the Easter holiday http://stepintotechathon.org/.

 

View from the Pulpit: Collaboration

Collaboration, by Mr Sexton

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“Houston we’ve had a problem” said astronaut Jack Swigert to NASA mission control. Apollo 13 was 200,000 miles from Earth. It had been launched on April 11, 1970, and was two days into its mission, to investigate an unexplored part of the moon. On board were three astronauts.

That evening, mission control asked Command Module pilot Swigert to do a final job, a routine procedure called a “cryo stir.” It was meant to stop the super-cold oxygen and hydrogen, stored in tanks, from settling into layers.

So Swigert flicked the switches for the fans to do the stir. Then “Bang!” and the master alarm sounded. The astronauts didn’t know what had happened. Back at mission control the data screens were going crazy.

Commander Jim Lovell then reported in, “… Looking out the hatch, …we are venting something… out into space.” Checking their instrument panels again they saw that they had lost all the oxygen out of one tank, and it was rapidly disappearing from the second. They were in deep trouble.

To survive they needed to quickly move out of the command module and into the lunar landing module. The lunar module didn’t have a heat shield to survive the trip back to earth, but it could potentially keep them alive long enough to get there. Then the astronauts could transfer back into the command module, and if it had enough power they could re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and splash down safely into the sea.

Lovell and Fred Haise (the Lunar Module pilot) worked frantically to boot up the lunar module in less time than designed, while Swigert remained in the command module to work together with mission control, to shut down all its non-essential systems and so save as much power as possible for the re-entry to earth.   

This done, the mission to land Apollo 13 on the moon was abandoned. The new mission was to get the astronauts back alive.

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There were a number of challenges ahead. The first issue was that the Lunar Module did not have enough carbon-dioxide filters to keep the air breathable for the three men. So the engineers at mission control had to work out how they could fit square carbon dioxide scrubbers from the command module into the round scrubber holes in the lander.

The next problem was that the spacecraft was on the wrong trajectory. At the time of the accident, Apollo 13 was on a path that would cause it to miss earth by 2,500 miles!

Over the coming days, mission controllers worked around the clock – grabbing a few minutes of sleep under their desks when they could.

The problem of the carbon dioxide scrubbers was eventually solved by engineers who instructed the astronauts how to use: spare parts, duct tape and a sock!, to fit the square cannisters into the round holes.

Then another team worked with the astronauts to fire the lunar module’s thrusters, at key points to get them back on course. However, each time this required precious power.  So, just like on the command module, they had to turn everything off, apart from the essential systems.  This meant there was no heating, so temperatures dropped to near freezing. Some food became inedible and they had to ration their drinking water to keep the lunar module’s hardware cool. They were all losing weight and Haise developed a kidney infection.

Finally, on day seven they made it to the earth’s atmosphere and relocated back into the Command Module. Then they got a view of the outside of it. “One whole side of the spacecraft is missing!” exclaimed Lovell. Would they have a heat shield? Would the parachutes open?

As they hurtled towards earth, communication was lost. Everyone held their breath. Then, TV cameras picked up Apollo 13 floating down through the clouds; its three parachutes open. Mission control and the whole world celebrated.

The crew became international heroes, but this had been a team effort. In an interview afterwards, Lovell explained, “It was a collaboration. A tale of two groups. One was in a comfortable control room with hot coffee… [who] had to come up with the ideas to get us back… and the second group in a cold, damp spacecraft, [had] to correctly execute those decisions.”  

It was collaboration that saved them. But collaboration and team work aren’t trouble-free. It sometimes feels like it is just easier to do things by yourself, your way. However, being a good team player, and working well together, is as important as being the leader.

When President John F Kennedy visited NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961, he introduced himself to a cleaner who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The cleaner replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon!”

As a school, we are going to be encouraging effective collaboration. The Green Group have been setting each tutor group a challenge. 

So to finish, Why Collaboration? Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said it this way: “Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others' success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”  

Have a great day, together.

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