Amazing Skype lesson with Andrea Boyd – ESA

On Wednesday 16 March I arranged for the whole of year 5 to Skype with European Space Agency engineer Andrea Boyd. The Skype meeting was to compliment the unit I was leading about space, Mars and the Curiosity rover. Thanks to Jackie Slaviero I made contact with Andrea and we arranged the chat in just a couple of days.

The girls were prepped pretty much the day before the chat and I led a lesson about Andrea, ESA, ISS and engineering. The girls were then asked to write down their questions for Andrea. I read all of the questions and highlighted the best ones, 5 from each class. These girls were then chosen to ask their question to Andrea during the chat. The stage was set.

The Skype did not go 100% smoothly. The morning of the Skype was wet, very wet, so classes got a bit wet walking from junior school to the middle school learning studio. A small inconvenience but not ideal.

ICT came to help set up the Skype and everything seemed to be working well. We had video and audio and the test call connected no problem.

The girls arrived and were seated, I milled around nervously waiting to get started. At 9am I made the call to Andrea and the call did not connect, it didn’t event ring. I tried again, still not luck. I had no idea why. Andrea had messaged us on Skype to say that she was ready, she was online, we were online, yet no connection, what was happening? I called ICT and left a message for help. In the meantime I chatted to the girls and we asked a couple of space questions to spark some debate. Then ICT showed up, fixed the problem and we were away, at last!

The call was amazing! Andrea was lovely and really engaged the girls from the first moments. She spoke about herself and what she does at ESA and EAC in Germany. The girls behaved perfectly and asked their questions with poise and confidence. There manners were excellent and and they thanked Andrea for her time with great enthusiasm.

Andrea answered all of the questions and we learnt so much. Some of the things I learnt:

  • Spacewalks are very dangerous
  • Space suits can fill with water due to a leak inside
  • Astronauts’ faces get squashed in space due to the pressure
  • Eyes also get squashed
  • The ISS doesn’t need fuel when it is in Earth’s orbit
  • The gravity of Earth is enough to keep the ISS moving at 27,000 km/hr
  • The ISS is constantly falling towards Earth, every so often small bursts are made to push the ISS back up to around 400 km above Earth’s surface
  • Astronauts sleep floating around in the ISS
  • Astronauts either spit out their toothpaste and saliva into a towel or tissue after brushing their teeth or they swallow it
  • Astronaut training involves lots of swimming
  • Learning Russian and Chinese will help you be selected to become an astronaut
  • Teamwork and communication skills are also very important for future astronauts
  • Andrea would like to go to space for a weekend and then come home

We all learnt so much!

I loved this Skype lesson and will definitely be looking to do one again soon.



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