William Perkin School joins UKMON

Peter Campbell-Burns
11 November 2016

Young scientists at William Perkin School

UKMON is very pleased to welcome the students of the William Perkin C of E High School in West London into the UKMON network. As far as we are aware, this will be the first school in the UK to participate in a meteor camera network and in doing so it becomes part of a pan-European collaboration of amateur astronomers and academics.

The camera will be operated by the school’s “Elite Scientists”, a group of 15 students led by science teacher Anita Kapila. As well as collecting and analysing data on meteor dynamics, they aim to use spectrographic techniques to understand the composition of meteors. Funding for the equipment and software was secured through Anita’s successful Partnership Grant application to The Royal Society. Working closely with the school is Dr Ashley King, a post-doctoral research scientist with the Natural History Museum (NHM).  Ashley is researching the origins of water in the solar system through the study of meteorites. Ashley is also a fellow UKMON member having set up the museum’s own camera on the roof of its famous South Kensington building ( a second camera is planned for its museum in Tring).

On Monday 7 November Richard Kacerek and Peter Campbell-Burns joined Ashley and Helena Bates in a visit to the school.  Helena is a PhD research student also researching meteors at the NHM. The objective of our visit was to help Anita set up the camera. We completed some of the key set-up tasks and were able to survey the camera’s rooftop location but physical installation of the camera had to wait until cabling has been installed by the school’s facilities staff. Peter will be revisiting the school in a few weeks to meet the students, introduce UKMON and to talk about its work and achievements. By then the school’s camera should be fully operational.

The William Perkin school offers its students an outstanding science curriculum which gives plenty of time for its students to develop key scientific skills. The school has also developed links with scientific institutions such as the NHM to ensure students have access to scientists and current scientific studies.

Under Anita’s direction students have been learning about meteors and are showing great enthusiasm for the subject. Last year Anita won a prestigious Royal Society Partnership Grant for 15 students to work alongside Professor Monica Grady of the Open University Planetary and Space Science Department.

Working with Professor Grady they learned about meteor collection and identification, collected data from the OU’s cameras and presented their findings to academics at the OU. The project became a case study for the Royal Society and was showcased on its website.

We also learned that Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, who first discovered radio pulsars, will be a keynote speaker at the school next year. All of this shows the school’s outstanding dedication to its students. And the importance it places on its teaching of science as a specialism.

To have this opportunity to support an amazing school and its enthusiastic group of students is a huge privilege for UKMON and we look forward to playing our part in encouraging the next generation of astronomers.

UKMON team at William Perkin School

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