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Department of Engineering

Cambridge engineers help inspire the next generation

Cambridge engineers help inspire the next generation

Two Cambridge researchers have offered bite-size engineering inspiration to A-Level students as part of a free educational video.

Hay Levels extend the great breadth of knowledge of Hay Festival experts to A-Level students across the country. We hope they will be widely used and shared and are deeply grateful to these fabulous academics that have supported us so far.

Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival

Dr Hugh Hunt, Reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration, and Dr Michelle Oyen, Reader in Bioengineering, joined other world-leading teachers, thinkers and writers from a range of disciplines to launch the third series of Hay Levels – a free series of video master classes put together by the Hay Festival and Hereford Sixth Form College, in partnership with the Tata group.

Matched to current A-Level subject curricula, Hay Levels films gives students open access to some of the most renowned experts in fields ranging from the Great War to the big thaw, immunity and globalisation, to name a few.

Now in its third year, the Hay Levels project was inspired after mathematician Marcus du Sautoy gave an impromptu master class to a group of A-Level students on his way to speak at Hay Festival. Since then, speakers appearing at Hay Festival events in Wales, and around the world, have been invited to contribute to the growing bank of free online video resources.

At this year’s Hay Festival, Dr Hunt gave a talk on whether it is possible to refreeze the Arctic. His Hay Levels video focuses on carbon waste.

“The scale of dealing with CO2 is unimaginably big,” said Dr Hunt. “When you fly for instance, every one hour sitting in your seat on a plane, you are responsible for 100kg of CO2. A 10-hour flight is a tonne of CO2. It puts into perspective the scale of what we as individuals have to do about climate change.

“What I’m interested in is engineering solutions for, perhaps, refreezing the Arctic if we fail to meet our CO2 emissions targets.”

Dr Oyen’s talk at the 2017 Hay Festival assessed the carbon footprint of popular building materials like steel and concrete and discussed approaches for substituting new bio-inspired materials instead. Her Hay Levels video is on bioengineering with a focus on osteoarthritis.

“What we’re working on is tissue engineering where you try and rebuild the damaged cartilage by adding cells to a polymer, plastic, porous matrix in order to make a new tissue,” said Dr Oyen.

“So at the moment, this is still an idea for the future, so we’re doing this at a research level, thinking about making these constructs, thinking about how to optimise their physical mechanical properties, and also their biological compatibility, so that the cells remain happy, so that when you put it into the body, the body doesn’t reject it.”

The Hay Levels videos are being released fortnightly throughout the school year on the Hay Levels YouTube channel and shared across social media using #HayLevels.

Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, said: “Our work to bring writers and readers together in conversations and debate continues to develop digitally. Hay Levels extend the great breadth of knowledge of Hay Festival experts to A-Level students across the country. We hope they will be widely used and shared and are deeply grateful to these fabulous academics that have supported us so far. And, of course, while these resources have been designed with A-Level students in mind, it’s not to say everyone can’t learn something from them.”

Dr David Landsman OBE, executive director of Tata Limited, said: “Tata shares Hay Festival’s commitment to education and skills and we are proud to partner with Hay Levels for the third time this year. Education is key to success in everything Tata does, which is why we are continuously investing in skills, not only for our companies, but also in the communities we work in.  We hope that that this year’s videos will help to inspire and educate the engineers, business leaders, academics and creative thinkers of the future.”

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