Oxfordshire students try their hands at engineering

20 April 2018

A team of students from Oxfordshire have been hard at work designing a piece of equipment for a science facility that can test how electronics stand up to harmful cosmic ray particles.

The team of Year 12 students from King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage have been taking part in the Engineering Education Scheme (EES), a six-month programme which links students and their teacher with local organisations where they work on real engineering and technology projects.

Today the students showcased their work at an event at the Diamond Light Source on the Harwell Campus near Didcot. Other projects from schools in the area were also presented at the event and judged by a panel from the Engineering Development Trust.

Students from King Alfred’s were mentored by local engineers from STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source research facility. The teens have designed a new component for the ChipIR instrument, which fires neutrons at electronic devices to see how they are affected – this shows how resilient the item is to withstanding the effects of cosmic ray neutrons.

Cosmic rays hitting the Earth’s atmosphere generate showers of particles including high energy neutrons. These are an invisible threat that can disrupt the normal operation of electronic systems.

The shutter for ChipIR, which allows the scientists to access the instrument, is currently being redesigned and as an additional safety measure the ChipIR team would like to install a smaller secondary shutter – which is what the EES group were tasked with designing.

Engineer Simon Cooper, the ISIS staff member who has been mentoring the school team, said: “It has been great working with the students to help them reach their project goal. It’s definitely been a challenge for the group having never worked on anything like this before but they’ve made great use of the opportunity and together have come up with some interesting concept designs to solve this engineering problem.

“It’s been a lot of fun and a good learning experience – for myself as well as for the students.”

The group has determined the specification for this equipment and used this to develop some concept designs. They then assessed these concepts and selected one to develop further to create their final design that they presented as a prototype at the Celebration and Assessment Day on April 20.

Katherine Anderson from King Alfred said: “The students have really enjoyed getting some hands-on experience of scientific engineering.

“We’d like to thank STFC for giving us the use of their facilities and to thank Simon for his time and expertise.”

The winner of this regional stage of the scheme will be entered into the national Engineering Education Scheme competition against other school’s projects from across the country.

For more information on the competition, please visit the EDT website.

2018 is the Year of Engineering, and organisations around the UK are working together to highlight this extraordinary field. Together with other research councils, STFC is celebrating the Year of Engineering with lots of inspiring content. Find out more by visiting our Year of Engineering webpage.


Melissa Warren, STFC Press Officer

King Alfred’s Academy
Rosie Curry, Press Officer

Last updated: 23 April 2018


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