The Bloodhound SSC Project - an attempt to break the World Land Speed Record (LSR) - began its public life in the early 2000s, although the idea first took root in the head of Richard Noble, the Bloodhound Project's CEO, when he saw John Cobb trying to break the World Water Speed Record on Loch Ness, as a young child. Noble has been at the forefront of British speed engineering for more than 25 years: he and his team built the Thrust1 and Thrust2 jet-propelled cars, the latter of which set the LSR in 1983, at 650.88mph, and held it for 15 years.
It wasn't until 1997 that the record was broken - by Noble's team, again, with the ThrustSSC (supersonic car): the first car to break the sound barrier, reaching a top speed of 763mph. Now Noble has returned for one final go at taking the record higher; we met with him and Oracle's head of technology and cloud, John Abel, in London last month, to talk about the possibility of reaching 1,000mph and how Oracle is helping Bloodhound SSC to get there - and inspire the next generation of engineers.
If you want to do something innovative and creative like this, you've got to innovate like hell. If you try to do this in a conventional way, you will only get a conventional result - Richard Noble
Back in the '90s, Noble found promotion very difficult - which is a problem for his team, as they are entirely funded by donations. The media thought that the public would find the subject matter too difficult, and so the SSC Programme went the self-promotion route with its own website, public blogs and crowdfunding. "We quickly discovered that the public loves technology, on an enormous scale," he said, "so we give them 800 pages of technology."
That realisation has been key to the Programme's new way of working - and bringing Oracle on board. Andy Green, the car's driver, and Noble had a meeting with Lord Drayson, minister for defence equipment and support; after having their request for a jet engine politely refused, Drayson told them that the UK is suffering from a massive shortage of scientists and engineers, and requested their help in inspiring the next generation: turning the car into the country's largest STEM programme.
The response from teachers and students has been "huge," but it's been a learning process on both sides. Teachers told Bloodhound that they needed data to involve their students: at 550 data channels - covering everything from car components to weather to mapping - that is a lot of data! This is where Oracle entered the mix.
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