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29 April 2005
Many of the Department's engineers were involved in this year's Science Festival.
Scale Model of Solar System
Professor Andrew Palmer led the building of a scale model of the solar system at Churchill college. He recounted how the event went. "The model was to a scale of 1:10^10 (1 to 10,000,000,000). On that scale the Sun is the size of a large grapefruit, and Neptune is about 500m away, the distance from the centre of Churchill to the chapel. The mean position of Pluto would have taken it beyond the Churchill boundary fence, but we took advantage of the fact that Pluto has a very eccentric orbit, so that sometimes it comes within the orbit of Neptune.
The planets are tiny, mostly the size of a peppercorn or a pea, though Jupiter and Saturn are a little larger. Each of the children was asked to chose a planet, make a model from plasticine, and hang the model in a circle cut out from a large piece of white card. On the card they could write or draw anything they liked: poems, factual data, ideas about what animals might live there, etc. Books were provided as source material. The white card was taped to a stick that could be pushed into the ground.
A total station theodolite was mounted on a tripod at the sun position. The model sun hung on the tripod. The children could choose how to set out the model planets, either by electronic distance measurement from the tripod, or by GPS (geographic positioning system) or for the inner planets by a simple measuring tape.
Once the system was set out, we went up the tower at the Moller Centre to see the whole system spread out before us. We then did a 'comet walk', starting at Pluto and at each planet pausing to let the child who had chosen that planet tells us about it.
At the end one of the children said: 'That was fun!'."
Rocket Launch Pad
Other engineering events included:
Bending the Rules: Small is Different
On the Millennium Bridge
A Wonderful Thing is a Phillips Machine
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