Students’ gadget for Olympic pistol team is bang on target

�Students and their tutor from Havering Sixth Form College have designed a piece of training equipment that will save an Olympic shooting squad huge amounts in time and money.

Amazingly, the British rapid fire pistol team and their coach Hugh Hunter, from Upminster, had been travelling to the German town of Frankfurt (Oder), on the Polish border, for target practice.

It has the nearest Olympic-standard shooting range, but travelling with weapons cost the team thousands of pounds, as well as many hours in bureaucratic talks.

Since March, 12 students –led by electronics and physics lecturer Tony Sykes – at the Wingletye Lane campus have been designing, programming and manufacturing 10 flashing-light control units to sit above targets.

The devices have Olympic standard sequences and timings which let the shooter know when to fire.


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“There has been no up-to-date equipment in the UK since the government banned handguns after [the shooting massacre at] Dunblane in 1997,” explained Tony, a lecturer at the college for more than 20 years. “So the team have being going abroad to train.”

Hugh spotted the electronics course in the college’s prospectus and asked Tony for help; and the lights – finished last Friday – surpassed his expectations.

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‘So grateful’

“I was so grateful and extremely impressed,” he said. “None of them had ever been on a shooting range before, so their work was based on what I told them. I was expecting bulky items, but these can be carried in a suitcase and transported around the country.”

The squad had been unable to gain funding for lights in the past, but Tony agreed to do the designs for free and Hugh paid for materials.

Two upper-sixth students were involved in the design process, and 10 from the lower sixth helped manufacture the casings.

Tony said: “Hugh handed me the shooting rule book, so I had to study that to understand the range of timings which needed to be programmed.

“Most of the programming is stuff on the syllabus, so it was great practice for everyone involved.

“The design was fairly simple and it seems to do what Hugh wants it to do. Our biggest probem was squeezing all the wiring into the cases we’d made.

“It feels great to be involved so closely in helping one our Olympic teams.”

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