A while ago I saw a poster in the department foyer for an engineering competition. ‘Win £500 – travel expenses payed for’ was the main thing I read. It was on a Friday but we spoke someone in the department and they had no problem with us missing a day for something subject related, so off me and 5 others from my course went – bright and early to the NEC in Birmingham – with absolutely no idea at all what we were in for!
We got there and the event was MASSIVE. As well as the competition – the National Engineering and Construction Competition, Sponsored by General Electrics to be precise – it was a huge jobs fair and everyone was very smart wearing suits. I was wearing a shirt and jeans and some in our team were wearing hoodies…
After signing in and getting some posh looking lanyards, we went in and because we’d got there early, we had chance to go and see some of the stands – we went exploring and the stands were genuinely fascinating. I’ve posted before about the jobs’ fair in fresher’s week, but this was on a much bigger scale. I could definitely see myself working at some of the places exhibiting there and it made me very guilty about not applying to many (any) year in industry placements. There were too many stands to talk about but one of the more interesting ones was one called Wavepower. The co-founder was there and explained that it’s a small start-up which is trying to be the first to make sustainable wave power. He was a very engaging man, and had set up a business at the age of 17 which he’d then sold for millions to fund Wavepower. He explained that doubling the size of a wave power generation unit gives 3 times the power output so it’s really advantageous to make massive generators. It seems like it’s going to be the next big thing. It’s out at sea so there’s no one around to find it ugly and its less damaging to wildlife than tidal power where you have to block up estuaries with dams.
After we’d had a brief look around the other stands we went to the central arena where the challenge was taking place. Two lovely old gentlemen explained that the task was to make a car which could go from a to b (a 4ish meter track) as quickly as possible. There were a variety of materials and tools provided and also a mouse trap that was supposed to power the vehicle.
You were able to have as many runs as you wanted, so our plan was to take our time on the first design getting the axel as well lined up as possible. Then we hoped to test it fast and often making small improvements. We were the first to run and our first try was slightly worse than a disaster. The basic idea everyone used was extending the ‘snappy’ part of the trap using a dowel, giving a longer pivot, which was then attached to string, wrapped around the axel. Our first attempt gripped the axel too tightly and went forward for a couple of turns with a wheel spin and then re wrapped its self and actually ended up going backwards! Our second attempt was hardly better, it would seem to the other teams that the underdressed team from Leicester was a bit of a joke.
So did we recover from that mess? How did we recover from that mess?! I’m sorry, you’re going to have to wait till next year for the answers to that!
I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2016!