Pupils in Pole position

Sixth-formers have created a Web site to follow the footsteps of a polar expedition. By Dorothy Walker

The history of Arctic exploration is peppered with stories of brave men who have died lost, cold and alone, as rescue parties searched the vast expanses of ice. But when David Hempleman-Adams sets out tomorrow to lead a walking party to the Magnetic North Pole, he will not be lost, not even for a minute. Thanks to satellite technology and a bunch of enthusiastic schoolchildren in the Midlands, anyone who logs on to the Internet can follow his progress every yard of the way from Canada's Resolute Bay to the Pole.

Pupils at Heart of England School in Solihull were offered the chance to build the Web site for the Ultimate Challenge Expedition last month, after their IT inspector sat next to one of the explorers at a dinner.

Although the school has a reputation for making good use of computers, most of these machines are archaic BBC Micros and, until three weeks ago, few pupils or teachers had even seen the Internet. Yet, from a standing start, the Web site went online in the space of a week. As the IT co-ordinator, Bernadette Pryzbek, says: "It certainly was the ultimate challenge for us."

The school's core team of Webmasters consists of a dozen sixth-formers, plus a cool 12-year-old called Michael, recruited late in the project when he happened to mention he had "played around building Web pages" at home.

The team's technical spokesman, Chris, says: "We hadn't got a clue how to do it at first - but we learned."

The challenge began on Friday 15 March, when a shiny new Pentium 75 machine arrived from MJN Computers, whose managing director, John Simnett, is on the expedition. BT installed a link to CampusWorld, its Internet service for education. Chris and Darren, the school's IT technician, got it all working over the weekend.

"We then spent Monday using CompuServe's Home Page Wizard stuff," says Chris. It was hopeless, because it wouldn't do complex things. So Darren ordered a book about HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which arrived on Wednesday."

But the shrewd sixth-formers took a faster route to learn HTML: they downloaded other people's Web pages, and looked at the source code that was used to build them. To do this, you just click on "view source" in your Web browser.

Two days later, the Web site was up and running, complete with background information on polar exploration. "The basic HTML stuff - page headings, text and hotlinks - is quite easy," says Chris's classmate Jonathan. More complicated, he says, is presenting the daily journal of the expedition's progress. "Chris had the idea of putting up a map of the route, with a hotspot marking where the explorers are each day. Click on the hotspot, and you can read that day's diary entry. We're still working on that one."

The expedition will haul a sled-load of the latest communications equipment, and will beam live TV pictures back to the BBC via the Inmarsat satellite. Diary entries will be e-mailed to Solihull from base camp at Resolute Bay, where a computer operator will be in constant touch with the explorers by radio and satellite phone.

"They'll send information as often as they can," says Chris. "As long as there is something interesting to say - not just `Oh, it's cold.' " Other schools on CampusWorld are being invited to come up with questions, which Heart of England School will filter and forward to the expedition.

The pupils' research for the Web site has covered geography, geology, history, weather and endangered species. Michael has put together two pages on previous polar expeditions, with hypertext links to other sites. His friend Nick says: "I'm researching polar bears. John Simnett has asked us to make a stamp in the shape of a pawprint, to frighten the other explorers."

Trickiest job is getting to grips with the North Poles, of which there are three. The expedition is not going to the Geographic North Pole (the top of the Earth's axis); nor is it heading for the Geo-magnetic North Pole, where Hempleman-Adams went in 1992. The goal is the Magnetic North Pole, a moving target that shifts 10 miles north-west every year. The young researchers aren't sure where it is at the moment ("Bathurst Island?"), but have made it a priority to find out.

The school has had to rely heavily on sponsors for equipment. "We could also get money for putting up Web pages for local businesses," says Chris. "I read that some Internet companies charge pounds 500!" However, teachers feel that this would be taking on too much.

So far, the only unforeseen difficulty has been in publicising the site on the Internet itself: the process of registering with any of the Web "search engines" takes six weeks.

The expedition flew out to Canada on Friday, and begins the 350-mile polar trek tomorrow. The party includes 10 novices, selected after a rigorous programme of physical and mental tests. Weather - and polar bears - permitting, they are expected to plant a Heart of England School flag at their destination on 20 May.

After the excitement is over, will the intrepid kids in Solihull carry on using the Internet? "Yes - if they don't take the computer off us," says Chris.

Web site URL:

http://www.campus.bt.com/CampusWorld/pub/ Ultimate-Challenge/in dex.html

e-mail address:

heartofenglandsch@campus.bt.com

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

    £300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

    High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

    £70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

    Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

    Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits