Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Posts tagged ‘STEM’

The Science and Technology Showcase at Plymouth University

20170125_145656-979x1305.jpg

Freebies! My Explore Discover Achieve lanyard, my Event pass, a Plymouth University notepad, and our 3D printed tags from the Electronics stand

Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University.  When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.

First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist.  His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily.  Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road.  Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.

Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist.  Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness.  She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.

The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group.  His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point.  Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer.  His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.

The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper.  She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap.  Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours.  She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people.  Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.

20170125_145341-979x1305.jpg

The Basic code I tried out on the BBC Microcomputer

After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments.  It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section.  First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape.  There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test.  I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five.  They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate.  The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test!  I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.

In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man.  I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about.  On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.

We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand.  Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land.  It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates!  I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork.  I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots.  It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset.  We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.

Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand.  I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand.  There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on.  J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.

20170125_145300-979x1305

Some flyers I picked up to learn more about the courses and events at Plymouth University

In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth.  It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space!  We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered.  Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine.  We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike.  We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.

The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System.  I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope.  A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well!  There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien.  A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system.  He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!

I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting.  My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works.  I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.

 

On Shaky Ground at At-Bristol

20161103_112636

The schedule for the On Shaky Ground event at At-Bristol

Last week me and my brother attended the On Shaky Ground event at the At-Bristol Science Centre (Twitter).  It was an event for home-educated young people led by a woman called Kathy about earthquakes, how they are caused and how engineers and architects design earthquake-resistant buildings.

We began the day with Kathy explaining to us how earthquakes can happen, the consequences of earthquakes and how engineering can help.  First she explained how the Earth is made from a central core surrounded by a layer of liquid magma, and above that floats the top layer called the crust, which is made up of several tectonic plates.  When the plates move against each other or the pressure is released from below it creates a seismic wave, which we also call an earthquake.  Kathy explained that earthquakes can be measured using a seismograph and that there are three different kinds of seismic waves: P-waves, S-waves and surface waves.

20161103_112345

This demonstrated the movement of the earth’s crust on the magma layer.

Next Kathy talked about the consequences of earthquakes.  One of the most interesting facts she told us was that around a million earthquakes happen every year but most are not felt by humans.  However, some earthquakes are strong enough to cause landslides, liquification, tsunamis and land ruptures.  Kathy explained that everything has a resonating frequency and if an earthquake has the same frequency as a building the building can be damaged or even fall completely.  She told us that ‘brown sound’ is a frequency that resonates with a human’s bowels and can make them poo themselves!

20161103_112407

This demonstrated liquification caused by earthquakes where some things rise to the surface from below and other things sink into the ground.

Kathy said we can’t predict or prevent earthquakes but we can design earthquake-resistant buildings with clever engineering.  We split into teams to plan and build earthquake-resistant water towers.  We were given a budget of £100 (fake!) to spend on materials for our towers, such as paper straws and string, and we had one and a half hours to finish our buildings.  Our buildings also had to be a certain height and as water towers had to be able to hold some weight, and we had to plan them out before trying to build them.  Kathy gave us this advice:

  • Keep it simple (e.g symmetrical)
  • Avoid changes in stiffness (changes in material)
  • Avoid local weak points (changes in load transfer plants)
  • Keep mass central (if mass is on one side it can cause twisting or falling)
  • Reinforce joints
  • Strong columns and weak beams
  • Use horizontal load bearing shapes (triangles are strong shapes)
20161103_112332

A close up of the earthquake simulator.

My team was called ‘Igloo’ and was made of me, my brother J, and a friend we made that morning, L.  We talked about the tips Kathy gave us.  At first we thought about a pyramid shaped building but decided against it because it wouldn’t be able to support the weight at the top.  Instead we chose to design a building with a cylindrical external shape with a square core support inside.  We chose this because one of the tips on the cards we were given said that if something had less sides it would have stronger earthquake resistance.  Next we talked about what materials we would build from.  We decided to use large paper straws as scaffolding stuck upright onto the plastic base we were given with hot glue, and smaller straws taped at the top of the long ones to increase the building height, since the large straws on their own weren’t tall enough.  We arranged our straws in a circle and wrapped sheets of paper around the outside for the outer wall.  To make it all stay together we used a hot glue gun, and reinforced it with tape.

20161103_1321030

A closer look at our water tower.

We did have a few problems during the challenge.  It was difficult to get the straws to stand up straight because the glue was slow to dry.  We didn’t budget for straws for crossbracing so our structure was weak.  Some of the straws bent, which created some weak points as well.  Lastly, we didn’t manage our time well, so we weren’t finished when our time ran out, but we were given an extra five minutes.

Then we stopped for lunch and had a quick look around some of the science centre.  When we came back each table had a slinky to use to demonstrate seismic waves.  We learnt that a Seisometer measures the pulse given off by an earthquake and picks up where it came from.  Volunteers popped balloons of different sizes to demonstrate the different magnitudes on the Richter Scale.  Each number on the Richter Scale indicates an earthquake which has 30 times the energy of the number before it on the scale.  A very small balloon didn’t make a noise when it was popped but when a very large balloon was popped it was deafening and I felt it under my feet.

In the next talk Kathy spoke about how ground tremors can have unnatural causes, for example they can be a consequence of fracking, underground railway development, or quarrying.  Quarrying is digging into the ground to collect materials (e.g. rocks) and fracking is injecting water at a high pressure into rocks to release gas for people to use as energy.  Fracking is extremely controversial because of concerns it could cause tremors and pollution.  In the UK, fracking has only started to be used recently and is being monitored.  The UK doesn’t get a lot of big earthquakes and the only earthquake-resistant buildings here are nuclear power plants.  This is because engineers have to consider the likelihood and the consequences of an earthquake on the buildings they are designing.

20161103_142826

Our water tower about to be tested on the earthquake simulator.

Finally we tested our water towers on the earthquake simulator which is a table that shakes and has different settings for magnitude using the G scale (engineers prefer to use the gravity scale to the Richter scale).  Our team managed to pass the first two levels but fell on the third (0.3G).  Another team managed to get past the conditions of a typical Japanese earthquake.  Their tower was built similarly to the Eiffel Tower with a wide base coming to a point and had lots of crossbracing.  Instead of resting their weight on the top they had it hanging down the centre.

20161103_153412

Me in the hamster wheel at At-Bristol.

20161103_152353

J using a machine which shows how energy is used in the human body.

I really enjoyed the On Shaky Ground event and we learned a lot.  Afterwards we had two hours to spare so we had a better look around At-Bristol.  I went on a giant hamster wheel that generated power to lift water in buckets.  We played games to test our reflexes, measured our heart rates and tested our startle reflex.  J had a long talk about the chemical structure of water and about antibiotic resistance with Lisa from the Live science team (team Twitter).  Our wristbands had barcodes on them that allowed us to save our results.  There was a lot more that we looked at and more we didn’t see because we had so little time left but we are planning to go back again soon.  At the end we went through the gift shop and J got a pot of Thinking Putty and I got a couple of Banksy postcards.  We also looked at the statues and saw a small amount of a fireworks display in Millennium Square.

20161103_140054

The children’s picture books in Bristol Central Library are kept in this boat structure.

20161103_175716

There was an image of a person in the wood of the boat.

Before we came back to Plymouth we paid a visit to Bristol Central Library which was huge and had a large kids and young adult’s section, and while we were there I read some of the manga Nisekoi.  We walked through College Green and visited Park Street where I bought some Posca markers, Promarkers and Essdee Softcut (for lino printing) from Cass Art.  Cass Art is a huge art shop with two floors and a big selection of pens and other equipment.  I have started trying lino printing recently and it is quite good timing because this half term we are doing printing at NA&DSC and at one of my home ed groups.

_1

Some of my uncle’s custom painted shoes.

We also visited some of my cousins for dinner and to catch up.  My uncle in Bristol is a graphic designer and we looked at some of each other’s recent work.  I showed him all my Inktober drawings and he showed me his custom painted shoes and a mural he has painted on my cousin’s bedroom wall.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to Bristol Museum or any galleries because I got sick, but I did get to see a lot of graffiti from the car window and one of our friends has promised to take me to see more next time I’m in Bristol, which hopefully will be soon!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: