A lecturer in Astronautics at the University of Southampton has partnered with the indoor skydiving company Airkix, for a project that aims to inspire interest in STEM subjects among secondary pupils.

The ‘Icarus Physics of Flight School’ initiative sees Dr Angelo Grubišić host practical physics lessons at Airkix’s facilities for visiting school parties, during which pupils get to learn about the science behind wind tunnels and how air heats and cools.

The lessons also look at scientific principles at play in skydiving – from the effects of adopting different body positions in the air, to terminal velocity and the mechanics of parachutes – and allow the pupils to experience for themselves the sensation of flying in a vertical wind tunnel at airflow speeds of up to 100mph.

Dr Grubišić previously helped develop spacecraft for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the European Space Agency, and is a passionate wingsuit BASE (Building, Antenna, Span, Earth) jumping and skydiving enthusiast.

As he explains, the project “Gives me the chance to combine my two great passions in life –  teaching and flying. I’m delighted that between us we have been able to provide what I believe will be the best physics lessons ever for young people and hopefully inspire a fresh interest in STEM based learning. There are few things better than having a positive impact on students’ lives and choices.”

Among the schools that have participated so far is Bishop Challoner School. According to science teacher Dr Sarah Barton, ““We brought the kids to this event so that they can learn more about the application of physics to skydiving; they have to learn about it for their GCSE’s so it’s a fantastic way to get hands on experience.

“These types of events really help to keep their interest in science going. It’s not just that they can experience it for themselves, seeing the University group who talked them through their wingsuit project, gives them ideas of what they can do. You don’t necessarily see stuff like this in the news, so it’s something different for them.”

Icarus Physics of Flight School lessons are available at sites in Manchester, Basingstoke, and Milton Keynes; for more information, visit the Airkix website or follow @Airkix