AN American female astronaut is helping a Farnborough school to launch itself as a space age technology centre.

High flier Marsha Invins will get the Wavell School's "Launch Pad for Learning" project off the ground at next week's Farnborough International Air Show..

She will give a lecture about space flight, based on her experiences with NASA, to a specially invited audience of students.

The event marks the start of a link-up between the school and the SBAC, the show's organisers, aimed at sparking an interest in technology in the classroom.

Because it is based in the "Home of Flying", the school has been chosen to spearhead the global project via the internet, video links and other modern communication means.

Aerospace company staff will work alongside teachers to help create 21st century style lessons in the subject.

The school's website will be launched next Tuesday by DTI Minister Stephen Timms.

At the same time the 820-pupil school is celebrating its successful bid for special technology college status.

The school, which has had to raise £50,000 to qualify for its new status, will also receive £500,000 over four years from the Government.

As part of the deal, the Wavell will establish close links with seven local schools, three of them comprehensives.

Head teacher Spokey Wheeler said on Monday: "We are delighted that we have become a centre of excellence for technology."

He said the Launch Pad for Learning, a charitable trust, would only add to the school's prestige.

"This is a fantastic time in the life of the school," added Mr Wheeler, who has been appointed director of the trust.