Dr Joy Warde the Department's Outreach Officer held the first two 'Discover Engineering' family workshops at the end of last term. The workshops were sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering's Ingenious Fund which awarded £21k to develop and host 6 workshops this academic year.
Your workshops have given children like my son, an opportunity to experience a subject to which they would not otherwise have access. This in turn enriches their education, and extends their horizons.
The overall aim of the workshops is to introduce young people to the creativity, relevance and importance of engineering and technology in society. As part of the workshop Jim Platts, a lecturer here at the Department of Engineering, gave a talk on "Designing and Making Larger Wind Turbines".
On arrival eager families were given a standard kit consisting of a set of gears, generator, rotor hub and axle. The first task was to build the gear box and connect the generator. They then had to use information provided by the outreach team to design the shape, size and angle of their turbine blades. As the teams found out, this is a very complex problem, as they had to think about all the forces which act on the blade.
When complete they could test their turbine and record the maximum output voltage. Using the advice of the student Engineering consultants the teams then had the opportunity to tweak their design to try to increase the voltage output. There was a real buzz of excitement as teams were able to improve their turbines and record a higher voltage on the results board.
Each workshop ended with a prize giving ceremony where the teams who designed the top 3 wind turbines received a prize. Every child could take home a Discover Engineering certificate and a "what next kit".
The event was fully booked, as always, with 270 visiting children and parents and the feedback has been great. Comments from participants include:
"Your workshops have given children like my son, an opportunity to experience a subject to which they would not otherwise have access. This in turn enriches their education, and extends their horizons"
"Great workshop, very enjoyable and educational."
"Cool, it gets you to think a lot."
"Engineering is never boring."
The project was designed by a team of student volunteers and 32 undergraduate and postgraduate students helped on day.