10-year-old girl invents ‘space clarinet’ – and the science is legitimately amazing

6 September 2019, 11:26 | Updated: 20 September 2019, 15:07

By Helena Asprou

The aspiring astrophysicist won Beano’s ‘Life On Mars’ competition with her bright invention – and the futuristic instrument has since been launched to the edge of space.

A 10-year-old girl has made history by becoming the first person to invent a ‘space clarinet’.

Elin, who lives with her family in Worcestershire, created the one-of-a-kind clarinet to enter a competition run jointly by the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and Beano, Britain’s longest-running children’s comic magazine.

The competition, titled ‘Life on Mars’, challenged children aged six to 13 to design products they think future generations will need if they ever leave Earth to live on Mars.

It comes after the IET’s recent study found that nearly half (48 per cent) of under 16s believe a human colony on Mars will be established in their lifetime.

An aspiring astrophysicist and keen clarinetist, Elin decided to re-imagine her favourite woodwind instrument, so that it still works out on the red planet.

Elin prepares to send her invention to the edge of space
Elin prepares to send her invention to the edge of space. Picture: IET

After receiving the great news, Elin told E&T Magazine: “I was so excited to hear I’d won the competition! I love everything about space and my dream job is to become an astrophysicist.

“I love playing my clarinet and would want to take it with me – but I realised I wouldn’t be able to play it while wearing a space helmet. To make it work, I designed it to have an air supply tank, which would blow air through the instrument; I also added an amplifier to make sure I can hear the instrument due to the change in air pressure and gravity.

“It’s amazing that my clarinet design is the first in space! It was really inspiring to attend the launch and learn from the engineers on site.”

Elin’s ‘space clarinet’ at 122 metres, after being launched in Ashbourne.
Elin’s ‘space clarinet’ at 122 metres, after being launched in Ashbourne. Picture: IET

And it seems we’re not the only ones impressed by Elin’s invention – judges for ‘Life on Mars’ announced her as the winner, and the futuristic clarinet has since been built and launched to the edge of space as part of her prize.

First, it was developed into a 3D prototype by the IET and launched a distance of 35km to the edge of space, where it experienced freezing temperatures of -63°C, before being sent back down to Earth at speeds of over 150mph.

The clarinet began its journey into the clouds in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, but landed by parachute near Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire, which is more than 70 miles away.

Elin’s prize also included a special edition of the Beano, released on 4 September, with a comic strip featuring illustrations of herself as a cartoon character, starring alongside Dennis and Gnasher.

The world’s first ‘space clarinet’, designed by Elin
The world’s first ‘space clarinet’, designed by Elin. Picture: IET

Sophie Harker, a budding astronaut and IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year, said: “As seen in the recent A-level exam results, science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are becoming more popular, which is great news for the future of our industry.

“That said, it’s important that more is done to show young people the huge number of careers available in engineering and technology as jobs are created and humans continue to explore space. The ‘Life On Mars’ competition was a fantastic way to inspire the next generation of engineers and highlight the fun, interesting and broad range of careers on offer within the sector.

“Elin’s design really captured the imagination of the judges and it was wonderful to see the intricate level of detail she’d considered to ensure the clarinet would work in space. It was an exhilarating experience to watch the clarinet head up above the clouds.”

Elin’s ‘Life on Mars’ competition entry form
Elin’s ‘Life on Mars’ competition entry form. Picture: IET

By launching the ‘Life on Mars’ competition, the IET hopes to inspire the next generation of engineers, to help boost the UK’s current shortage of engineering skills.

And of course, Elin’s incredible ‘space clarinet’ is a step in the right direction.

Congratulations, Elin!