# STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #5

### How do rockets get so much power to shoot into space?

-asked by Lea, 8, from West Jesmond Primary

Rockets are not too different from regular planes and cars – they all need something called ‘fuel’. The only difference is that rockets need a (lot of) special fuel to allow them to take off. The fuel is burned inside the bottom of the rocket which produces a hot gas (called an exhaust gas). This hot gas is pushed out the bottom of the rocket through something called a ‘nozzle’ (a tube that gets smaller closer to the exit) which makes the gas travel faster (acceleration). It’s this acceleration of the gas that’s used to push the rocket off the ground. Rocket fuel is special as it produces lots of energy compared to regular fuel – the same way some foods give us more energy than others (like chocolate!)
– Jenny, Mechanical Engineering Student

### Why are triangles the strongest shape to build lots of bridges?

-asked by Rosie, 10, from Ravenswood Primary School

Shapes that have straight sides are called ‘polygons’. Triangles are special because out of all the polygons, they have the least number of sides. Because triangles only have three straight sides, they are harder to squash than other shapes, for example: squares. If you look at the picture below, you can see how applying a force to a square would make it deform (squash), whereas no matter how you apply force to a triangle, this can’t happen because each side supports each other, which is why triangles are so strong! This is why engineers use triangles in their designs, to make their bridges as strong as possible.
-Jenny, Mechanical Engineering student

-asked by Emily, 7, from Simonside Primary School

When we refer to electricity, we mean the movement of tiny particles called electrons through a material that will allow them to pass through called a conducting material. An example of a conducting material is a copper wire which we usually see covered by rubber – if you have a charger for a tablet or phone then that is a great example.

To generate electricity, you usually need a fuel source. This could be in the form of coal or gas and nowadays hydropower and wind are becoming increasingly common sources of fuel. Electricity is generated through a machine called a generator which takes one form of energy and converts it into electrical energy. A common visual example would be a wind turbine. You can often find these in large empty fields or sometimes when you go to the beach you can see wind turbines far out in the ocean. Wind causes the blades of the turbine to spin which means magnets inside the wind turbine will also spin. These magnets are surrounded by copper wires which allow electrons to flow through them when the magnets spin around them and this flow of electrons is what generates electricity.
– Sidra, Mechanical Engineering Student

### How do TVs and computers work?

-asked by Yedam, 8, from West Jesmond Primary School

Computers and other electronic devices like TVs, phones and tablets all work in a similar way – they take instructions in the form of ‘code’ – code is just a language that computers can understand. These coded instructions are called ‘programming’. A computer scientist ‘programs’ a computer to work before we buy it so it can recognise our instructions – this is the computer’s ‘software’. When we give our computer an instruction (such as turning it on, clicking the mouse or going onto the internet) the ‘software’ tells the physical parts (the ‘hardware’) what to do.
– Jenny, Mechanical Engineering Student

# International Girls in ICT Day 2017

There is a huge shortfall of ICT professionals worldwide, with many companies looking to increase the number of women working for them. However, many girls don’t even consider a career in ICT. We decided to celebrate some influential women in ICT from the times computers were invented to now.

Ada was an English Mathematician who worked on the ‘Analytical Engine’, one of the first designs for modern computers.  She recognised that computers could do a lot more than was previously thought and designed the first algorithm that could be carried out by computers. She is often called the first computer programmer for designing this.

### Joan Elisabeth Lowther Murray

Joan was an English cryptanalyst (analysing information systems to breach cryptographic security systems) who is best known for her work as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during World War II. She worked on the Enigma project, which cracked the German system of encoding their messages and led to WWII being much shorter and saving thousands of lives. The Enigma project was a very early form of ICT.

### Grace Hopper

Grace was an American Computer Scientist and a United States Navy Rear Admiral. She was the first person to develop a compiler, despite being told by many people that it would never work. A compiler is a programme that changes what you write on a computer into a language that can be understood by the computer. This allows computers to work with words rather than just numbers as was previously done. There is now a yearly Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, giving women in computer science a chance to share their research.

### Anita Borg

Working as a computer scientist  she developed ways to analyse high speed memory systems in computers. She founded Systers, a network for women in technology, and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. In 1997, she founded the Institute for Women and Technology (now the Anita Borg Institute), to increase the number of women in technology and their impact on the world.

### Marissa Mayer

She joined Google as employee number 20 and as their first female engineer after studying computer science at university. She oversaw the layout of Google’s home page and became Vice President of search products and user experience. In 2012 she became president and CEO of Yahoo! and led them to buy Tumblr in 2013.

# #TryThisTuesday: Birthday Binary

Here’s a little trick you can play on your friends, or someone you don’t know well enough to already know their birthday…

With the five cards below, you can “guess” anyone’s birthday. Just go through each of the cards in turn and ask them if their birthday (as in the date they were born, not the month, so if they were born on the 17th January, their number is 17) is on the card. Discount the cards their birthday is not on.

With the remaining cards, the cards their birthday is on, add up the numbers in the top left corner and the number you get should be their birthday!

For example, my birthday is the 30th April so 30 in my number. Its on card 1,2,3,4 and not card 0 so you would add up 2+4+8+16=30.

### Is it science or is it magic?

Of course it’s science! This actually works on a system called binary, which is the language computers use. Binary is written in 0s and 1s and these together look just like 101001010010010101010 to us but to a computer that might actually mean something.

In this case, when you discount a card, that becomes a 0 and the remaining cards are a 1. So going back to the example of my birthday the cards would read 11110 (reading it backwards) and in binary this means 30.

# Our top STEM jokes!

It’s nearly Christmas and that means it’s time for awful Christmas cracker jokes. Hopefully our favourite STEM jokes will be a bit more funny! Scientific explanations are underneath each one.

Neutrons make up the middle (nucleus) of atoms and don’t have any electric charge, unlike protons (positively charged) and electrons (negatively charged).

Light is made up of small particles, these are called photons. Therefore, a photon is travelling light.

The chemical symbol for oxygen is O and potassium is K.

H2O is water, but H202 is hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide would cause chemical burns and choking if it was drunk.

Atoms are very small and make up everything, including us.

Schrodinger’s Cat is a thought experiment in physics, where a cat is kept in a box with a radioactive source and poison. Until the box is opened, the cat can be assumed to be both dead and alive.

Helium is a noble gas, this means it is doesn’t react with other elements so is inert.

Extrapolation is when you estimate what the result may be beyond what you measured. The joke is that some people can’t extrapolate from data so can’t work out the end of the joke

Binary is a way of using two different symbols, 0 and 1, to represent any number, this is often used to create code for computers. 10 in binary is the same as writing 2. Therefore, there are two types of people, those who understand binary and those who don’t.

If an atom loses an electron (a negatively charged particle) it will become positively charged.

If time travel is ever invented, it doesn’t matter when as you can just travel back in time with the time machine.

Anti gravity is a place or object that is free from the force of gravity, so would float around.

This is a play on words, as the atmosphere in a restaurant is how you feel when you are there, but in science terms the atmosphere is a mixture of gases that surrounds the Earth. The moon has a much thinner atmosphere than the Earth and was originally thought not to have one.

# Marine Projects Society

There are loads of societies that you can get involved in at Newcastle University. These are clubs based around your interests or what course you study. One of our newest STEM ones is a hands on engineering society: the Marine Projects Society.

It all started when a group of Marine Technology students took part in the International Submarine Race in 2014 in Washington DC, USA. Students who were interested in working on it the following year took over and decided to form a society around it to enable students to partake in a variety of Marine related projects. The society remained focused on marine engineering so a a variety of engineering students across the university could collaborate on projects.

This academic year (2015/16) they are working on building an underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), which are underwater robots important in studying deep water habitats that we otherwise couldn’t access . The society aim to take part in the MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) ROV competition in Long Beach, California, USA in June next year. The competition is based on acting as entrepreneurs selling the prospective client a product (in this case an ROV). To achieve this they must draft technical reports, marketing displays and engage in community outreach as well as build an ROV to demonstrate that it can perform certain set underwater tasks.

This years team consists of about 30 members, some of whom are a part of the core team and others are ancillary members who have the opportunity to learn from more experienced members and contribute in their own capacity. The current members form 3 sub groups, namely- 1) Structures & Chassis  2) Mechanical Systems  3) Electrical & Computing.

1. The Structures & Chassis team is responsible for designing the outer framework of the ROV and responsible for waterproofing and making certain design calculations (buoyancy, weights, center of gravity etc.).
2. The mechanical systems team is responsible for designing & building a manipulator (mechanical arm) in order to enable a person from the surface to control it remotely to perform certain underwater tasks such as picking items up.
3. The electrical & computing team is responsible for coding the control architecture or the ‘brain’ of the ROV. They are tasked with controlling the motor speeds, manipulator & underwater video-cam transmission.

This society is a really good opportunity for anyone who is studying engineering to get some practical experience. The students across the different sub groups come from a variety of engineering backgrounds (Electrical, Marine, Mechanical, Computer science). We wish them the best of luck with the ROV competition!