Over the last two weeks, pupils have been celebrating the language history and culture of India. This has focussed on our KS3 pupils, with a variety of activities taking place, such as samosa making; jewellery making; sitar playing in assembly; learning new Indian languages; talks about Indian politics, Indian history and Indian religions; Indian dancing; Hinglish; playing Kabaddi and cricket. We are very grateful to departments for coordinating such interesting activities and to the pupils themselves, who have led many of them.
The Trafford Ogden Partnership is just over a year old and AGGS is proud of its status as the Ogden hub school. Like all of the partnerships sponsored by the Ogden Trust, its aim is to “make physics matter”, and brings together physics departments from local schools. We decided to finish the academic year with a day’s celebration of physics and to show Y12s some possible “destinations” provided by their A level physics.
The venue for this event was Altrincham Grammar school for Boys’ spectacular Physics centre and presenters were asked to lead a 30 minute activity as opposed to delivering a lecture.
Several of the presenters were recent AGGS students who were “gently” persuaded to come along and with their stories of: research at CERN, using neutrino detectors to monitor and prevent developing countries building nuclear weapons, building stable structures and polymer research. Maria Violaris and Clarissa Costen provided a Q and A session about studying physics at Oxford, and gave a talk on entropy. Tamzin Owen demonstrated a cloud chamber using dry ice and Kerry Abrams provided a hands-on activity about extruding polymers.
There was a local theme with Salford’s Acoustic Engineering Department being represented by Professor Trevor Cox who demonstrated some cutting edge sound technology used by the media. The Graphene Centre at Manchester University sent along two PhD researchers, Georgia Kime and Fiona Porter, who showed how this material will change the future. Professor Ian Morrison from Salford explained how important hydrogen will become as a future fuel. Paige-Marie from Cavendish Nuclear led a discussion group on the vital subject of assessing and limiting risk in nuclear power stations.
Lloyd Cawthorne introduced students to the Isaac Physics website which aims to develop problem solving skills on-line. Some of the girls from AGGS had met Lloyd at the physics master class in Cambridge earlier this academic year.
The Institute for Research in Schools, already familiar to several AGSB students (who have plans to launch a particle detector by balloon), was introduced to the wider Trafford audience.
Other presenters were: Dave Cotton (astrophysics), Laura Thomas (IRIS), Laurie McClymont (CERN), Jen Wilson (spectroscopes); Toby Lord and Clive Humphries (Civil engineering and structures.)
The day ended with Dr Kerry Abrams (ex AGGS) talking about her educational journey from abandoning A level studies, through FE with young children, study for degrees and now a post at Sheffield University in materials, with a consistent love for learning.
The whole event was extremely well received by the 120 or so participants and there was a real buzz in the atmosphere during the event with students getting to know each other and getting involved in the activities. The water rocket launches were particularly well received. Some quotes from students were “engaging, challenging, inspiring”; “I had a really good day; I was able to talk to current people in STEM careers, met like-minded people and had an insight into A2 physics, as well as participating in fun challenges”.
Manchester University is prided as being one of the best for physics in England and their labs rumoured to be phenomenal; luckily for us at AGGS we were given the chance to visit on the 20th June. Two students from each form with an interest in science – specifically physics – rendezvoused at reception at 8;30 am before setting off in a trundling bundle of a mini-bus clad in casual clothes with small rucksacks on our backs.
Sitting in the bus, noses buried in magazine articles about string theory and LQT, we rode to the university where we were greeted and joined forces with Stretford and Well acre. We were split into groups (I was in a group with three others, Kitty, Christabel and myself – we had yellow stickers with silver drones on our chests). We were given an introductory lecture where we discussed engineering’s effect on history including the epidemic of cholera 200 years ago resulting in the development of reservoirs to extinguish the threat of dirty water in a very controversial campaign on their behalf before moving on to the cost of the life of lighting and how it changed: the early 1800s where 1 hour of work gave you 10 minutes of candle light explaining (in a way) the common illiteracy rate to today where 1 hour at the minimum wage produces 3 years of life on an LED. Thanks to engineers.
Our first task consisted of debating and pooling our answers to the questions: “What have you used electricity for today?” and “How have engineers improved your life today?” resulting in a variety of answers: for the first, electric utensils, devices, projectors traffic lights and more; for the second, there was plumbing, travel, infrastructure, medicine, electronics and even food among other things to demonstrate how much engineers do. After all, everything man-made was touched by an engineer in some way in its path to perfections – the career is immense.
Secondly, we received some equipment: a boiling tube, some wire, a voltage metre and a magnet then told to produce a voltage. Through this experiment we demonstrated Faraday’s law of magnetic induction whereby cutting the lines of a magnetic field with an electric current creates a voltage and that voltage increases in a variety of ways: using a more powerful magnet, increasing the
magnet’s speed, adding more coils to the wire or condensing the wire coils as all this means the field is being sliced more lines at a faster rate. To demonstrate this phenomenon, we wrapped the wire around the boiling tube and connected it to the metre before moving the magnet within the wires. We could also have done it vice versa by moving an electric current with in the magnet. We varied several factors such as type of magnet placing and shape of the wires and the way we moved the magnet before reaching volts from 120 to 150 by the end.
Afterwards, we engaged in some very stimulating conversations about careers, science and ethics with the STEM ambassadors as we discussed their qualifications, inspiration, career path and interest. They were emphatic and eager to debate answers for all our questions. Their enthusiasm I found inspiring paired with their knowledge and made me consider jobs in engineering I’d never thought of – they happily introduced themselves and explained their different fields with enrapture and understanding. Interviewing professionals was exciting as well as educating; we left with a rejuvenated and happy curiosity.
Lunch followed and soon it was back to experiments: demonstrating and discovering the factors effecting the voltage produced by a wind turbine. Firstly, we varied the angles of our instruments: the blades, the fan and turbine. Moreover, we reduced and increased and then varied the size of the blades before concluding that the more blades the better however if the weight is increased too much then the turbine wouldn’t spin. The same goes for their size as the bigger the blade the better for catching the wind but the weight could hold it down. Also, the opportune angle would be 45 degrees as at 90 the wind does not glance off and push it around despite hitting it full force and 0 does not catch wind at all whereas 45 is the perfect middle ground; however, I could understand why engineers decided to settle with fewer big blades despite by conclusions.
Overall, the trip was an immense success: we learnt about things we most likely won’t learn this year or maybe next and sent us away with our minds buzzing with questions and answers in a call and response fashion. I personally came away asking myself whether I was sure with what I wanted to do in the future and what engineers will do next. Well, I guess we can only wait.
Congratulation to Jorja K from Year 12 who won the School Physicist of the Year award. This is an annual, UK-wide award scheme sponsored by the Ogden Trust and are presented at the University of Manchester.
Each year teachers are invited to nominate their “best” Year 12 physics student. The student put forward by each school receives a School Physicist of the Year award from the Ogden Trust, consisting of a £25 book token and certificate presented at an evening event at the University of Manchester (Thursday 6th July). Receiving a SPOTY award will also qualify the student for the Ogden alumni association, which will give them chances for internships and other schemes if they go on to study physics at university http://ogdentrust.com/alumni-association
The 22 students on the NASA Houston trip arrived safely back in Manchester at 10am on Sunday morning. They had been travelling for about 20hrs with flights from Houston to Amsterdam and then on to Manchester. Exhausted but elated having had such a terrific experience.
The students were excellent in the way they conducted themselves and our hosts at NASA were most complimentary.
Perhaps the highlight of the week was meeting Don Thomas, an astronaut who has flown on 4 missions into space. His talk was most inspiring.
Have a look at the range of activities they did on the trip at their blog:
Upon my arrival to Whitworth Hall, I felt nothing but awe whilst looking around and taking in the historic architecture. It was such a pleasure to be given the opportunity to visit and explore the University responsible for the discovery of the nucleus by Rutherford and the discovery the neutron by Chadwick, who both went onto to win the noble prize. Without these fundamental discoveries, the world of physics would be very different.
Once inside the main hall, I found myself engaged in the works of Dr Tom Whyntie, who studied particle physics at CERN. Although he confirmed we had completed our search for particles that are part of the Standard Model, he left me with the question “What’s next?” I then heard from Prof. Lucie Green who has dedicated her career to studying the star which we rely on to survive, the Sun. She talked through the cutting-edge technology we use to study the Sun including ultra-violet telescopes and the 2020 Solar Orbiter mission to launch a spacecraft 3/4 of the distance between the Earth and Sun, which will be subject to conditions in excess of 600°C.
After a short tea break, we heard from Prof. Jim Al-Khalili who gave a fascinating lecture on fate and whether we as humans have free will or are we playing out a series of events that have already been determined by the Universe. Through many models, including Einstein’s block Universe, he suggested that we in fact do live in a predetermined Universe but we will never be able to know what our future is. Following a lunch break, I then listened to the words of Dr Michael Brooks who spoke about gravity and the recent observation of gravitational waves.
To complete the day, a former student of AGGS, Dr Helen Czerski who is not only a physicist but also an oceanographer gave us an in-depth view into the vast mysterious expanse of water which occupies the majority of our planet. Her lecture varied from the effects of ocean waves to the suffering ecosystems subject to changes in water pH due to increased uptake of CO2.
As a whole, the lectures allowed me to not only look at our world but also the Universe we live in completely differently, by putting into context just how immensely massive our Universe is. Through studying Physics and attending the Science Live lectures I can see see how complicated and interwoven everything in the Universe is.
From the 20th to the 24th October, twenty sixth formers accompanied by Mr Nisar, Miss Lloyd and Mrs Lord went to Geneva, Switzerland to visit CERN. The trip was exciting from the start. The plane flight went normally, save for the plane missing it’s allocated landing time in the Geneva Airport and suddenly swerving up, surprising most people.
After arriving to Geneva and everyone admiring the quietness, smoothness and efficiency of Swiss public transport, we have finally made it to Geneva Youth Hostel. The Youth Hostel was surprisingly nice and we were served good quality food for breakfast.
The next day, we went to CERN, where we got a lecture on the use of particle physics in medicine, and a tour of the facility. During our trip we also visited the ATLAS detector and saw the scientists working at the detector. We were, however, not allowed to go underground to where the actual detector is located, as the accelerator was in action.
We also visited many museums related and unrelated to accelerator physics. We saw an engaging and informative presentation about the history of CERN and it’s accelerators as well as seeing a surreal and almost futuristic presentation on how the CERNs first accelerator, the synchrocyclotron worked. Light was projected on to the (real) synchrocyclotron to show various parts of it and what happened inside. It was incredible!
We also visited an interactive display in CERN which told us about the LHC and the discovery of Higgs boson. The most memorable parts of that were the cloud chamber, showing the movement of various particles through space and the life-scale model of the ATLAS detector. We also visited the Globe, in which we had a presentation about the LHC.
During the CERN trip we were given the opportunity to spend time in Geneva. We were given a tour of Geneva by a local guide, in which we found about the history of the city. In our free time we were also allowed to spend time in Geneva walking around museums, admiring the architecture and practicing French. The hardest part was trying to find food, as most shops were closed over the weekend. Some of us took a boat taxi back to the hostel. This allowed us to appreciate the views from the Lake Geneva: the infamous Geneva fountain and also the Alps and Jura mountain ranges, which encircle the city and lake.
On the final evening we had dinner with physicists working in or in collaboration with CERN. This allowed us to understand more about what the life of a scientist involved. Many of us asked specific questions relating to physics and accelerators which gave us fascinating insights into the day to day life of a physicist at CERN
In the evenings we relaxed by visiting a spaghetti restaurant as well as pizzeria with bowling. On our final day we visited the UN and the botanical gardens, which was a very relaxing way to finish the otherwise intense trip.
This trip was fascinating and I would recommend it to anyone. I would love to go again.
Congratulations to Maria, Year 13, who won the Corpus Christi College Oxford ‘School’s Science Prize’. Maria came joint first on the subject of ‘quantum mechanics’. She wrote the article as a debate and used the debate as a metaphor for quantum mechanical ideas.
Maria also submitted an article to the Institute of Physics on ‘The Power of Thought’ .
First she presented Galileo’s thought experiment with a ship and a cannonball, to illustrate the idea that the Earth can be spinning on its axis without us feeling its motion. Then she gave the problem and solution to the ‘Maxwell’s Demon’ thought experiment and presented a form of the ‘Bootstrap Paradox‘ with time travel, by suggesting Galileo going forwards in time and seeing Maxwell’s ideas, and Maxwell getting his ideas from old records of Galileo’s work. Then she wrote a form of Hilbert’s infinite hotel room paradox, suggesting that each room be one to contemplate thought experiments in and everyone has to move up a room to make space for Galileo.
Maria said, “I am extremely honoured to have my article published in the Physics World magazine. So next time you’re in the mood for an experiment but don’t have any electromagnets to hand, escape into the state-of-the-art laboratory of thought and you might just stumble upon the next great scientific breakthrough…”