CanSat, Extracurriculars and Impending AS-Levels

Our CanSat following descent and impact.
It has been a long time, and I do apologise for that. About three months have passed since my last post, and I must say, I feel about three years older since the Arkwright awards ceremony. This post will not necessarily be very long: I just want to write something quick to update the readers – if they still exist – and to provide a log for future Nick. Hello there Future Nick! If you are interested, today is the day that Russia signed the agreement to annex Crimea from Ukraine and accept it into the Russian Federation.
Although I am no historian, and have not done history since age thirteen (because the UK system is great like that) I am not ignorant about the past. World War 1 started due, simply put, due to growing international tensions and a very finely balanced network of treaties and agreements. The thought that the treaties and agreements that are currently in place having an uncanny similarity to those of pre-WW1 times has not eluded my thoughts, and especially with the EU and all their complicated membership rules, I do feel somewhat uneasy about the global political and social situation. As my father so simply puts it, it only takes one person to tug on one piece of a string for the entire web to unravel.
While we sit here and await doom – I am over-dramatising – lets update you!
Lets talk about my A-Levels. Remember when I said that I could handle it? I might have been a bit over ambitious there. With the exam season rapidly approaching, I am finding myself panicking over the modules, specifically Core 3 and Further Pure 1 maths. Why is this the case? Well, I just make stupid mistakes. It is not a matter of a lack of knowledge: it rarely happens that I am unable to complete a question, but rather I will loose marks due to a rouge negative or writing 2^2 = 2 or something equally as stupid. The fact of the matter is, I need more practice if I want to score an average of 90%, which will be taking place over the easter holidays.
My friend made a throwaway comment about me refusing to take a break from work. His maths teacher heard it on passing us. He stopped and proceeded to give me a lesson on how I should take at least one week off and not to any work. I said, “yeah, maybe only one paper a day then”, to which he scoffed and made me promise that I would take a week off and do no work. Whatsoever. Bear in mind that I have never met or spoken with this teacher before! So yeah, now I have a forced respite, enforced by three teachers now…

Maybe it is for the best: I have been at school until 10pm most evenings recently in any case. Three weeks ago we had the UK CanSat launch. Due to a variety of circumstances, we were left with one evening to integrate the entire project and make it competition worthy! That was a very long night in the workshop. Subsequently, on the trip itself, I was up until 1am doing all the outreach – a key component in the competition – for the day that had just elapsed. Unfortunately, we did not win, although I like to think that our project was one of the most awesome there: 5 custom PCBs, a GUI for the base station, a micro linux computer interfacing with an Arduino in the rover, long-range wifi with an antenna, an antenna positioning system with an LCD display and, to top it all off, a project presentation prepared in under one hour after the initial launch was aborted! The problem was that our can was just that bit over-spec in diameter. 69mm instead of 66mm, which resulted in the can not quite fitting into the launch vehicle and thus costing us the 1st prize. Oh well, St Paul’s School are renowned for overcomplicating: last year’s project was a guided descent with a quadracopter…!
You can read more about our shenanigans at the competition (plus a few videos) on our blog: http://teamnova.co.uk/category/competition/ 
So, yes. That happened. Following that, my other commitments started taking over rapidly: I am now the head of theatre lighting at my school and the next main house show was rapidly approaching! We had more or less two weeks to rig and focus the lights required, which resulted in me being at school until 9pm for the majority of the following week. Then I had Young Enterprise stuff to finish, seeing as I am head of operations for my team! Speaking of which, take a look at our product website. (shameless plug!)
Then there was the whole debacle about the annual St Paul’s Inter-school engineering challenge, which had been delegated, but I still stepped in to help on the day, which again went onto about 8:30pm after everything has been tidied up! More time consuming, however, was my competition essay: I wrote an essay for the Cambridge Peterhouse Kelvin Science Prize, which I had started a while ago. The deadline was approaching fast, so I needed to make my modifications, of which there were many following very useful feedback from several teachers, within a short space of time. Of course, that was not exactly easy! The essay has been submitted now, so that is all done! I have also surprisingly been awarded the school’s internal science essay prize, which is apparently a big deal. I would not know really! I also presented an idea to a panel of physics teachers for the CERN Beamline in Schools competition. I had about 20 minutes free time to prepare this, so it was very short and basic however, apparently, despite my clear lack of preparation, they liked the general idea of it, so I have been told to look into it further…!
Right, that might all sound a bit selfish! I have also been involved in arranging and giving preparation sessions for this year’s SPS Arkwright Scholarship candidates, which also involved a lot of planning and effort! Amazingly, we got seven people through to interview, which is one of the highest numbers we have ever had! We had the interview preparation session today, so hopefully they feel confident when the actual thing rolls around!
It’s again 1am on a Friday evening, so I should probably sleep. Tomorrow is the final night of the play I frantically rigged the lights for and with the impending AS exam season, normal school workload is increasing very quickly! I think it’s best to stop with the extracurriculars for now! It is unlikely that I will get round to posting again for a while, but regardless, best of luck to all those facing exams, wherever you may be, and may the questions be in your favour!
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