Eleven Oundle School pupils spent ten days in Silicon Valley, California over February Half Term, accompanied by Head of Computing, Rob Cunniffe and Head of Design, Engineering and Technology (DET), Jon Baker. Initially based in Foster City, just outside of San Francisco, the group arrived to torrential rain, which fortunately swiftly cleared to bright sunshine for their nine day adventure.
The pupils divided into groups and began the week visiting the McRoskey Mattress Company and the Computer History Museum, where they examined punch cards and other historic computer apparatus. They also enjoyed a visit to Mozilla (a very open source office) and the entire group experienced a visit to Google, including a jump in one of the company’s ball pools and a quick forty winks in a sleep pod!
Subsequent days included a trip to Berkeley University, with the DET group visiting the Jelly Belly and Budweiser factories whilst the Computing group headed to the Intel Museum, tweeted from a statue of Nikola Tesla (which happened to be a public wifi point) and splashed out on Apple branded merchandise at their HQ at 1 Infinite Loop. The group also met up later on in the day to successfully escape from an ‘Escape Room’.
Time was spent on Alcatraz and exploring the delights of downtown San Francisco and
the pupils also paid a visit to the Headquarters of Tesla, which included a ride in a development version of one of their cars. During an afternoon spent at NASA’s supercomputing facility at Moffett Field, after going through two security checks, pupils witnessed the world’s largest wind tunnel. They also looked at Pleiades, the sixth most powerful supercomputer in the world and one of only two working quantum computers in the world. It even had its own especially built foundation to shield it from vibrations in the building!
Day five saw another split in the group, with the DET group visiting SKS Die Casting and Corbin Seats in Hollister while the Computing group visited Smugmug, Box and Facebook’s headquarters where they played with all the latest gadgets including an Oculus rift at the B8ta store.
On a six hour road trip to Los Angeles, the group caught an LA Clippers match along with Mariah Carey in concert. There followed a visit to Fender guitars, a barbecue by the pool and visits to Venice beach as well as an evening visit to the Griffith Park Observatory.
On their final full day, the group were hit by the ‘Bombogenesis’ storm but managed to fit in a visit to UCLA to see the first node of the Internet and even a bit of shopping before catching their slightly delayed flight home.
Rob Cunniffe commented, “This was an amazing trip which allowed the pupils rare ‘behind the scenes’ looks at a number of high tech companies. They were able to experience different office environments and the (eye-opening!) perks afforded to employees. Several pupils will be applying for internships in the coming years.”
Ben Bird (17) commented, “The trip was an inspirational look into Californian manufacturing, and an enjoyable stay in some of the west coasts best cities.”
Nikita Belenkov (16) added, “I really enjoyed our visit to the NASA Advanced supercomputing division. It was very interesting learning about Pleiades and seeing it in real life. We were also very lucky to see the new D-Wave quantum compute, which again I have only seen pictures of and read about.”