100 years of fast changing technology, outstanding skilful and supreme acts of bravery and service to this country is certainly something worth celebrating and reflecting upon. On the 1st April 2018 the RAF celebrated their first centenary; the very first Headquarters for the RAF was set up in the Hotel Cecil on the Strand in London on 1st April 1918. In the subsequent years the Hotel has been replaced with a new building and which is now, coincidentally, the home of Pearson plc. Given the significance of the site and Pearson’s strong connection with the RAF, through its commitment to Welbeck DSFC, Pearson hosted a celebratory event at 80 Strand as part of the RAF100 celebrations and 4 RAF sponsored Welbexians were given the immense privilege of being invited.
The reception was held on the top floor in a large room which was full of high ranking dignitaries, many of them serving, or had served, within the RAF. As Welbexians, our future roles within Defence will be as engineers, specifically for us within the RAF, and this gave us a good insight into the crucial role that technology and people have played in the past and will play in the future development of defence capability for our county. It was a privilege to meet the Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Stephen Hillier, who spoke to us about Welbeck and where we saw our careers within the RAF evolving in the future. We also had the honour of meeting other dignitaries including Air Marshal Julian Young, Chief of Materiel (Air) within Defence Equipment and Support; he will be our Inspecting Officer at this year's Annual General Inspection, and Group Captain Carol Vorderman with whom we discussed our careers and had a photograph! During the event we hosted guests and discussed with them some of the College’s STEM based projects created by fellow students, some of these were ones that we had designed, developed and built.
As well as discussing the College and our future careers within the RAF and Defence with the guests, we also had a wonderful opportunity to try out some state of the art technology. In particular, we enjoyed trying out Hololens, an augmented reality device that allows the user to place and interact with holograms in their own environment; technology which has been collaboratively developed by Pearson and Microsoft. By wearing special headsets, the room around us was transformed into a museum formed of holograms which we walked around, moved and researched; it was easy to see how such an innovation could have a profound impact on RAF training in the future, and indeed within education.
The event focused strongly on two aspects of the RAF, its past and its future … and the latter aspect is where we came in. Being representatives of the future of the RAF is certainly a rather daunting thought, but it is also really exciting and inspiring. We thoroughly enjoyed every part of the weekend and returned home feeling even more motivated and inspired for our future careers within the RAF; we also reflected on how we might be part of 125th Anniversary celebrations and what paths our careers might take before then within Defence and in our service to our country.