Engineering students at The Henley College experienced a Thursday afternoon out of the ordinary when Richard Browning of Gravity Industries visited to give them a special demonstration of his pioneering Jet Suit.
Students gathered on the College’s rugby pitches to watch Richard in action, and they weren’t disappointed. Walking out to the centre of the field, Richard fired up the engines and leapt into the air. Staff and students were issued with ear plugs to protect them from the roaring sound of the engines, and as Richard flew past, everyone was blown away, quite literally, by the force of the jets.
After flying around the pitches, Richard made his descent and whoops and cheers could eventually be heard over the dying engines, and everyone was left feeling like they’d seen something truly exciting.
Richard is passionate about shining a light on STEM subjects and inspiring young people, so after his flight he spoke to students studying Engineering Level 3 Extended Diploma about his work.
Richard, a former oil trader and Royal Marine, started to test early versions of the engines in 2016, and after a lot of trial and error, launched Gravity Industries the following year. Since then, Richard and his team have travelled the world and gained the attention of high-profile business leaders such as Richard Branson, Tim Draper, an early investor in Tesla and Skype, and Adam Draper, the founder of Boost VC.
Richard’s key advice to the Engineering students was to think about reputation, financial impact, and safety – if your idea or design will embarrass you, bankrupt you, or put your physical wellbeing at too much risk, then don’t do it. But he also reminded students that all new creations come from breaking the rules and asking yourself “what’s the worst that could happen” when bringing your “bonkers, childish idea” to life.
Head of Engineering, Noel Wood, who arranged for Gravity Industries to visit the College, said: “Richard was inspirational both in displaying his Jet Suit and in the talk he gave to students afterwards. Resilience is a key attribute in today’s world and Richard showed students the amazing possibilities that can be realised if you keep on trying. Richard is a true pioneer, and our students will undoubtedly remember his visit for the rest of their lives, and I know that it will inspire them in their future engineering careers.”
James Palmer, current Engineering Level 3 student, said: “Having someone whose work I’ve seen on social media visit the College was really great. I’m really enjoying being able to learn new skills as part of my Engineering course, and it’s helping me improve my ideas. I want to work in robotics and exploration technology in the future so getting the chance to meet Richard and see the Jet Suit in action was fantastic.”