Belgium STEM Trip

Friday 31 March 2023 | By Megan Connor

Following our recent Year 7 and 8 Belgium STEM trip, some of our intrepid explorers have written reports on their fantastic experience.

The Journey – At 10.00pm on a slightly drizzly Thursday night, we got on the bus to head off to Belgium. It was a very long journey as it was 9 hours down to Dover with a stop at McDonalds along the way. With little sleep and quite weary we got onto the ferry at 7.00am before arriving in France. It was 1 hour 45 minutes to the chocolate factory and we all were eager to eat some of the delicious chocolate being shown in the shop. After making our own we were desperate to eat some. After stuffing our faces with chocolate we drove another 3 hours before arriving at the mind blowing Euro Space Centre!

Day 1 – After we arrived at the Euro Space Centre we had had a long day and were split into 3 groups for the days ahead before eating, having an introduction to the centre and then very gladly heading to bed. After a well-needed rest we headed to breakfast and then moved on to our first activity. Our activities that day included: a dome show in their planetarium; building our own rockets; then we got to simulate our own space shuttle flight! Then we had dinner and went to bed.

Day 2 – On Day 2 we had a briefing on the many different types of rockets and whether they carried humans to space or not. We also learnt about when they were built and who built them. We then went on a virtual moonwalk using a device that uses springs to simulate the gravity on the moon and also on Mars. We wore a VR headset so we could see what it would look like. We then went on a multi-axis 360 degree chair, which simulates the dizziness experienced in space. We also went on a tour through the history of humans in space. In the evening we travelled to nearby Bouillon where we did a late night tour of a mediaeval  castle where we got to hold lit torches.

Day 3 – This was our last full day at the Euro Space Centre, and after a quick safety briefing we finished building our rockets before repairing satellites midair on the zero gravity wall and building satellites from scratch in a work environment. We also did a test to see how well we would manage the dizziness of being in space by spinning on a chair. Then before dinner some of us played football outside. Then after dinner we watched Interstellar in their theatre before heading to bed.

Day 4 – It was our last day in the Euro Space Centre and to start off with we were lifted up by a pulley system and hung in mid air before having to drop down a freefall slide so we could experience half a second of weightlessness. Then after a quick break we headed to the Rotor room where there was a spinning centrifuge where we would experience G forces which were so great that you were stuck to the wall and the floor disappeared. You were still able to stay there as you were pinned against the wall because of the G force. Then we had lunch for the final time before going on a safari at a local nature reserve where we saw bears and wolves. We then went on a tour through the amazing Caves of Han before having dinner and setting off on the very long journey back home.

By Isaac G and John M, Year 8

At 9.30pm on a snowy Thursday morning we, 40 other students and five members of staff, set off on our long journey to Belgium. Eventually at 6.00am, we were on the ferry and being treated to a delicious full English breakfast. As Belgium was an hour ahead, we arrived three hours later and got back on the bus. On the way, we stopped for a tour around the P&J Chocolate Factory in which we got to decorate our own chocolate bars. It was really fun. Afterwards, we looked around the chocolate shop and picked out presents for our families. Finally, we headed off for the Euro Space Centre. When we arrived we were told we were sleeping in the earth zone and were assigned our rooms. Luckily, we were in a room with all of the other Year 7 girls and quickly unpacked before we headed up to dinner. After dinner, everybody was really tired and got changed for bed straight away. We had to wake early the next morning to get ready as we had breakfast at 7.30am. The first activity was the space rotor which was so cool, we spun around really fast and then the floor suddenly dropped. We did not fall as we were stuck to the wall. Next, we did a mission where we had to get a rocket into space, in which I was the commander and Izzy was the flight director and had a lot to say. Lewis (the pilot) and I got to go into the flight simulator where there were lots of buttons that we had to press. Just before lunch, we did the 5D cinema experience where we got to be in the rocket with Neil Armstrong on his way to the moon. Just after lunch, we went on the multi axis chair in which we spun around like an astronaut in a capsule. We did not feel sick as we had a piece of paper to focus on, it was really fun! After that, we were told that we were going to make our own rockets and launch them on Monday. Izzy and I worked together and managed to wedge our motor into the end of the rocket. Next, we had the space tour where we got to explore the history of space exploration and the distance between different stars and planets in our solar system. Later we went to the castle for a night time tour of it. When we got there, we went in through a small wooden door carved out of the huge one which allowed entrance to the castle. We set off on our tour holding actual flaming torches, the view from the top of the castle was amazing. After the tour, we headed back to the space centre. We had a wonderful time and as soon as we got back we all went to sleep.

On Sunday, we awoke to a cold morning and headed down to breakfast. Pain au chocolat and croissants filled two large plates stacked like pyramids. You had to get there fast because they were gone almost immediately due to everyone liking them! After breakfast, we went back on the rotor but sadly we went at a slower speed because we were learning a few different techniques on what astronauts did before they went to space and did a bit of theory at the same time. Then afterwards we went into a room with a chair on a mini stage and we all looked so confused. Our instructor told us it was a torture chair though none of us believed him. It was actually very fun; we sat on the chair and closed our eyes, the chair spun around in a circle at a slow pace. At the start it sped up and then went back to a slower pace. We did this for 45 seconds and then we had to open our eyes and stare at a smiley face on a whiteboard. It was really funny if you watched someone else do it because their eyes went side to side really fast. Eshel won with the fastest time of 6 seconds for her eyes to return to normal.

After the chair experience it was lunch and the Euro Space Centre prepared beef burgers for us, they were delicious! Once we had finished our burgers we did a Virtual Reality experience of the Moon walk and the Mars walk and then completed our rocket projects. Soon afterwards it was our last and final activity in our red shirts, we did the drop slide! It was 8 metres high. If you pleased, you could tell the operator (who was in charge of the controls) to stop where you felt most comfortable but it was really fun if you held onto the handle long enough until you reached the top, the machine then suddenly stopped and there is only one way down and that is…to drop. Before we knew it it was dinner and soon after bed and we awaited Monday morning for new adventures .

On Monday, we woke up and went to breakfast as usual but then we didn’t stay inside the Euro Space Centre. In fact, we were actually ready and packed because we were going on a safari and visiting the caves!

We hopped on the bus and headed toward the safari but when we got there it said they had moved further down the street so we followed the signs until we eventually arrived. We signed in and the lady told us to follow the blue signs and so we did and when we reached our destination to our amazement we were getting on a safari bus! When we had jumped onboard our driver told us to look to our left and we saw cute little wild boars but if you paid attention you would have seen the baby pigs prancing around a tree,and on our tour we went to see owls, horses, bears etc. 

Everything has to come to an end, but we still had one more visit while we were there. We still had to see the caves, when we entered the caves with our tour guide, he told us that most of the natural exhibits of Stalagmites took 100 years to grow just one centimetre, he also told us we needed to climb over two hundred steps while we were exploring the caves! After we had seen most of the exhibits we watched a light show and it was incredible!

Soon after the light show we had finished our tour which meant we were heading back to the Euro Space Centre to set off our rockets. Emilia and I made a rocket together and our rocket was called To Infinity and Beyond but most of the Year 8 rockets were called Fred and George, which I found hilarious! We watched and waited and started the countdown from 10, but one of the many rockets malfunctioned and decided not to take off which was very sad but the next rocket in line soared into the sky and it landed in a tree. 

After all of the rockets had launched, well most of them, we finished our trip off with a visit to the Planetarium and then the Space Tour. Did you know that the planet Uranus was once called George after King George III because the astronomers who founded Uranus were very fond of their King?

Sadly, all fun must come to an end and we reclaimed our baggage from the Euro Space Centre and found ourselves back on the bus and waved goodbye to the Space Centre. We were now on our way back to England.

By Emilia H and Isabelle S, Year 7