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A fresh perspective on engineering from the next generation

School students celebrated six months of work on real engineering projects as part of the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory this week.

The hands-on programme saw students from schools in the region build and test solutions to real-world problems, working with mentors from local organisations – including STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source (ISIS).

The Year 12 students from King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage worked on an ambitious project with ISIS mechanical engineer Abigail Basham. They had to design a mechanism for a neutron ‘halo’ monitor, which controls the proximity of two detectors to a neutron beam. They aimed to avoid putting a monitor directly into the neutron beam, instead measuring the activity in the area around the beam to monitor its intensity.

This kind of engineering solution could be used at the European Spallation Source in Sweden for its LoKI instrument. It is a small angle neutron scattering instrument designed to look at soft matter, biophysics and materials science. The new monitor technology will need to withstand the more powerful beams, which makes a ‘halo’ monitor useful.

Abigail said the King Alfred’s students came up with several design ideas before building and testing a scaled-up model of their mechanism.

“They were really motivated and had a lot of good ideas,” she said. “It was inspiring to see their progress over the six months.”

The students found the project very different to their average school project, according to their teacher, Katherine Anderson.

“It’s a really good scheme to learn life skills and not an easy achievement for the students,” she said at the event.

STFC is committed to supporting engineering projects like this to help inspire young people and their teachers to pursue science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects – and a fresh perspective from young minds could have an equally inspiring effect on research at STFC’s facilities, according to STFC’s Executive Director of National Laboratories, Dr Neil Geddes.

“Over the years it has become increasingly clear to me that these events are also about bringing new insights and enthusiasm to some challenging real-world problems, often in ways not previously considered - and thereby inspiring the sponsors, mentors and the judges as well,” said Dr Geddes after delivering his keynote address at the celebration event.

The Engineering Education Scheme is an Engineering Development Trust programme providing Year 12 or S5/S6 students in England and Scotland with in-depth experience in science, engineering, and technology. For more information, please visit the EDT website.


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Last updated: 22 May 2019

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