By Lucy W 8-4
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.