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A driving force for physics

Students at New College Worcester are getting hands-on in their physics learning as they build their own car.

Published: 11 May 2022

Last year, following a grant from The Ogden Trust, New College Worcester took delivery of a Formula 24 Kit Car, which will provide the foundation for exciting hands-on physics at the residential school for young people who are blind or vision impaired.

Under the leadership of their inspirational Head of Science, Mr Stark (recently named Teacher of the Year at the Worcestershire Education Awards 2022) students have been working together to design and build their car, investigating what materials to use, taking into account weight, safety and flexibility.

“The students are having such a great time working together on this with a real team spirit emerging,” confirms Mr Stark who is overseeing the project.

“The project directly links to KS3 and KS4 learning,” explains Mr Stark.  “Students will study forces and electricity and the car will be a valuable teaching resource. We will study the circuits and the circuit diagram in a tactile way to meet the needs of our students to aid understanding of electricity. We will be able to see a real-life example of a circuit breaker which will protect the car circuits, and we will be able to see why some circuits need thicker or thinner wires,” he continues. “The lack of incidental learning for visually impaired students means they miss out on all of this in everyday life.

“In terms of forces, we will be able to use the car to plot distance time graphs and velocity time graphs by fitting a tracker to the car,” explains Mr Stark.  “We can look at car safety, which is part of the GCSE science course, in terms of crumple zones, stopping distances, and braking, and we can look at factors which affect acceleration.”

The uptake of STEM subjects amongst visually impaired students nationally is much lower than for the sighted population. One of the aims of this project is to increase uptake of A-level science and physics in particular. The school has many students who are visually impaired and avoid science at A-level, as they believe there are aspects of it that they cannot do, including the practical side. This project is helping to demonstrate that they can access a full curriculum and, with that, more career opportunities in the future.

“The school provides lots of practicals in class with modified apparatus, and this car is providing more inspirational learning opportunities, encouraging students to aim higher than GCSE and realise they can get into STEM careers,” adds Mr Stark. “We see this project really firing their imaginations, giving them physics and engineering problems which they need to find solutions for, developing and refining ideas and learning skills which will hopefully enable them to compete in the jobs market,” concludes Mr Stark.

A partially built frame for a model car, with a basic seat and green seatbelts, on a desk in a classroom

Formula 24 Kit Car construction underway.



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