13 May 2024

Over Easter break, our Seniors students packed their bags and headed to the Houston Space Centre in Texas, USA for the trip of a lifetime starting with the eclipse...

By Mr Mathew, Teacher of Physics


Words cannot describe how magical the moment was, but I will certainly try my best! We had an early start due to the 3-hour coach journey required to get to the campus of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The site was filled with people from all walks of life; little children curious about space, all the way to experienced academics that were giving talks on topics as diverse as Rayleigh scattering and the detection of exoplanets. Despite their differences, they had one thing in common - they wanted to see the eclipse in the company of family and friends and lock in those memories for a lifetime.


There was a bit of excitement when the partial eclipse started, i.e. when the moon first started to cover the sun. As it continued to do so, there weren't any noticeable changes, and it was forgivable to think we would see more of the same. However, no-one was prepared for what was coming next! As the final moment approached, the sky darkened, shadows became sharper and birds were chirping away and were diverted off their normal flight path.


And then it came. Totality! People were cheering, crying and taking it all in. The sun's corona formed a beautiful outline around the moon, demonstrating the famous 'Diamond Ring' effect.

It was truly a privilege to experience this moment with students and staff at Birkenhead School.

Houston Space Centre

“Houston, we have a problem!” – These famous words were first echoed at the Houston Space Centre during the Apollo 13 NASA Mission. Our students got to spend a few days at the centre following the eclipse. The majority of their time was spent on the Space Centre University Program, where they worked in small teams to complete projects related to the space program. One of the projects they had to work on was to build their own rocket; teams used their knowledge of maths and physics to construct a prototype that had to launch high into the sky and then deploy a parachute so that it could land safely.


In addition to this, they also got to build a habitat for a team of astronauts on Mars and construct a model rover that could be used to complete tasks such as transporting small objects. If you ask me, the most exciting activity of all was the scuba diving! Astronauts need to be excellent divers and we got a flavour of the underwater training they receive when we completed tasks such as building an airlock and identifying substances along a transect line with our scuba gear. The highlight of the week for many students was the graduation ceremony at the end where team Birkenhead took away a large number of medals and prizes, and where the students got to meet Hans Shlegel, a real-life astronaut!



The students had a grand time with a variety of experiences during the rest of the trip. We had some wonderful meals in a range of restaurants including an All-American Diner, a Mexican restaurant and the famous Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company, a restaurant inspired by the movie Forrest Gump. At Bubba Gumps, our knowledge of the movie was tested and some of the students did pretty well at answering the questions. We also had a great time at the Kemah Boardwalk, a theme park with some amazing rides. Walmart was also a feature on our itinerary where the students got to buy some goodies to take back home.