News from The Kings of Wessex Academy

Computing and ICT Trip to San Francisco

14th November, 2017 by Imogen Prewett 11RM

Imogen was part of the group of 35 very fortunate Years 10 and 11 Computing and ICT students who crossed the pond right at the end of last half term to participate in the exciting trip to San Francisco on the west coast of America.

You can read here now Imogen’s breathless report of the extensive visit and feel as if you were there with them...


Well, what a week it was. Early starts, late nights and a lot of fun in the sun. The 2017 San Francisco trip was packed full of museum visits, picturesque scenery and jolly tour guides – including the new, but very avid tour guide, Ms Short (Teacher of R.E.).

On Thursday 19 October 2017, 38 tired, but excited students and teachers arrived at school at 5:15am awaiting the long day ahead. After a three-hour bus journey to Heathrow Airport, getting through security and a quick breakfast, everyone was ready for the 11-hour flight ahead. Following 11 hours of movies, turbulence and delicious plane food we finally arrived in San Francisco at 2pm, because of the wonderfully useful eight-hour time difference. Warm, sunny and bright, San Francisco did not disappoint. Another short bus journey led us to the Hostelling International Fisherman’s Wharf, which had an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Later, we took a lovely walk down to a local shop, took pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and ate dinner. Afterwards, everyone was glad to get some sleep, because effectively we’d had been awake for around 24 hours. Yes, you read that right 24 hours.

On Friday, after breakfast, we started off the day with a visit to Silicon Valley where we had a tour of the Intel Museum. At the museum, we had a very interesting tour in which we learned some amazing facts about Intel. We saw how Intel began and how it has progressed over the many years it has been running. Right from the first Intel microprocessor to the most current microprocessor, we got to see how much Intel have changed over the years and how much smaller and more capable their chips have become. Also, during the tour there were lots of interactive moments, such as, being able to code our names, seeing how fast we could swipe our hands (which bought out the competitive streak in all of us) and even dressing up. After the Intel Museum, we all had lunch at In N Out burger, which proved to be very popular.

Afterwards, we visited Google where there were lots of amazingly large models of the green android logo and a few students also had a ride on some Google bikes - which were red, blue, yellow and green. Next, we moved onto the Computer History Museum via a sightseeing tour of some more of the Silicon Valley highlights, such as Facebook. At the Computer History Museum, there was plenty to do and see. There were exhibits on inspirational computing figures, such as Alan Turing, the inventor of the Enigma machine and Ada Lovelace, the inventor of the Analytical Engine. Lots of other exhibits showcased the history of computers, keyboards, games and so many more computing revolutions that have been made in the last couple of centuries. One quite recent exhibit was the driverless car exhibit. We were allowed to sit in and experience what a driverless car would be like, which may be something people will be buying, but nevertheless not driving in the near future. Then, we went shopping in Walmart, which is more like an adult-sized maze than a shop; yet everyone found some way of spending their money. Finally, we made our way back to hostel after a long and eventful day full of amazing exhibits and experiences and after dinner everybody went to bed ready for another amazing day.

On Saturday, after breakfast, we started off the day with a visit to Fort Point. Fort Point is a seacoast defence located at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the southern side of the Golden Gate. We had a thorough tour around a magnificent building that was built to protect San Francisco Bay from attack; but luckily it was never needed to be used, leaving it pristine and a lovely tourist location. The building had lots of rooms full of attractions and interesting facts about how the Golden Gate Bridge is maintained. After that, we visited Coit Tower, which had some absolutely amazing views of San Francisco.

Afterwards, we took a short bus ride to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal to get lunch at the farmers’ market that is held there every Saturday Morning. The market was beautiful and held a range of amazing markets and shops and in the centre of the market square was a lovely clock tower. This was then followed by exploring the visitor centre of the Golden Gate Bridge, which we then walked over. The walk took about an hour. But was amazing as it gave a beautiful view of the city parts of San Francisco and Alcatraz Island. Next, we were allowed free time around a market in Sausalito. Then, we headed to Target, a shop a lot like Walmart, but full of a random range of American candies and foods which everybody enjoyed. After that, we headed back to the hostel where we had free time before dinner to recover from all of the walking. A lot of the students enjoyed playing pool in the dining area and listening to music on the jukebox.

On Sunday, we started off the day with a visit to the Tech Museum of Innovation. The museum was like an American @Bristol. But on a much grander scale. We started off the visit with a look inside the Body Show, which consisted of donated real human bodies in various poses showing how the human body works. The rest of the museum was full to the brim of fun activities; such as cyber security challenges, micro-creature creating and robot programming. After exploring the museum, we bought lunch at the museum café and ate it in a nearby park, where we thoroughly debated technology issues. After that, we then had the privilege of seeing the amazing new, still under construction, of Apple HQ, which led us to our tour of NASA.

Inside the NASA Museum were real parts of space shuttles and we were even allowed to venture inside a real space capsule. There was also a small show on people who work for NASA and what kind of things they each contribute towards each and every piece of research on space and each shuttle that goes into space. After the tour, we walked to the NASA sign where we saw a real-life NASA shuttle and also took a group photo. Then we headed back to the hostel to unwind before dinner and before a good night sleep to recover from our busy, but thrilling day.

On Monday, we started off the day with a trip to the infamous Alcatraz high security prison. After a short bus ride to Pier 33, one of San Francisco’s many, many piers, we hopped onto an Alcatraz Cruise and cruised over to Alcatraz Island. After, an exhausting climb to the top of the island, we received an audio tour guide, which meant we could listen to guards who worked in the prison and even prisoners who were held at Alcatraz. We got to walk in the buildings that were once habited by some of the most notorious prisoners in American history. Seeing where the prisoners slept, ate and worked was an experience I think nobody will forget. We were even lucky enough to have been on the island the same day as the daughter of an Alcatraz prison guard, who even lived on the Alcatraz island with her family.

The audio tour led us all the way from the top of the island to the bottom where we took another Alcatraz cruise back to Pier 33. Next, we travelled an extremely short while to Pier 39 (only six piers long) and bought some lunch. Pier 39 is the home to lots of fish restaurants, gift shops and a San Francisco Hard Rock Café; as well as some of San Francisco’s most famous residents, the Californian sea lion. Afterwards, we enjoyed a charmingly old-fashioned and picturesque cable-car ride up some of San Francisco’s steepest hills at a wonderful speed of up to 8 mph, meaning we could enjoy the lovely view of the streets and buildings of San Francisco.

Next, we had a hop on an off guided tour of San Francisco in which we drove all the way to the top of the Twin Peaks which provided an entire view of San Francisco as well as to Lands’ End, where the ocean meets the bay. Finally, we headed back down the windy roads and long streets on San Francisco to the hostel where we packed our suitcases, ready for our final day in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, we started off the day Californian Academy of Sciences, which is one of the most astonishing places we could have visited. The Academy offered endless wonders, such as; an aquarium, a real living rainforest and an earthquake simulator. The aquarium included a crocodile, jellyfish, sting rays and even penguins. The rainforest dome (which seemed to be about 2000 degrees) contained three floors of exotic plants, animals and butterflies and the earthquake simulator allowed us to experience 90 seconds of what some of the different earthquakes San Francisco have suffered from would have been like. After that, we headed to Union Square which was a wonderful square that consisted of three blocks worth of high end shops and cafes.

At Union Square, we enjoyed time shopping (which included lunch for many at the amazing Cheesecake Factory) and the busy city life in which San Francisco withholds. Finally, we sadly had to drive to the airport and catch our flight back to England and back to reality after such an amazing and once in a lifetime trip. Although everyone was sad that we had to leave San Francisco, we were glad to arrive back in England, knowing that we had been to some astonishing places and enjoyed some remarkable experiences.