This week we’ve been helping out with the Engineering Education Scheme. Lots of year 12 students from the local area have been working with industry to come up with a project based on real scientific, engineering and technological problems. The students have come in and had a chance to work in the engineering laboratories and workshops that university students and researchers would use. After lots of problem solving and hard work, they presented what they had done so far. These are just a selection of some of the projects.
Mechanical Engineering – Lifting
This group was working on creating a lifting mechanism for a heavy item/box. The current method of lifting isn’t very good as its centre of gravity is in the middle so it wobbles when they lift it. They created a design with a cradle for the box which spreads out the centre of gravity. It is more stable and quicker to lift, saving the company time. The use of shackles mean the box can attached by hand, no tools are needed, again saving time.
Mechanical Engineering – Shield
A mechanical engineering group created an extendable shield. This is important for keeping people safe in war. In general all shields appeared to be really big or small, but there were none that could adapt to the situation. Use of cogs allowed the shield to be extended or retracted, solving the problem.
Electrical and Civil Engineering – Solar Power
The brief from WSP Global was to provide renewable energy through use of solar panels to the 350 people who work in the office. The students made a to scale model of the office based on blueprints and used a fixed angle light (as the sun) to look at the shading on the roof of the building. They also ran computer simulations to look at which areas would capture the most sun.
Civil Engineering – Leisure Centre
The brief was to design a leisure centre on land near to St James Football Park. There were lots of problems to be overcome in the design. The centre was to be built on top of an old mine shaft, which might mean the building would fall into the ground. They calculated that it was too expensive to fill the land underneath with concrete, so calculations had to be made for how heavy each part of the leisure centre would be.
Marine Engineering – Underwater vehicles
This marine engineering group was helped by engineers from BAE systems. They looked at making an underwater unmanned vehicle. They had to do some problem solving with getting the submarine to sink, working out the exact amount of weight required to make it neutrally buoyant. They used electromagnets to power the vehicle.
Marine Engineering – Underwater pipes
This group worked with GE oil and gas looking at using flexible pipes underneath the seabed. They compared two different materials; thermoplastic and thermoset. They did lots of tests, looking at things such as compression (squashing) and torsion (twisting) to find out its properties. They also looked at factors such as the price. Testing found that it was really important that there were no faults in the thermoplastic as it broke a lot easier. Underwater pipes are really important for transporting things like oil and gas.
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.
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.).
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.
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!
This week’s experiment will show you how a submarine works using just a water bottle and a ketchup sachet.
Take a large (2 litre) plastic bottle and fill it with water
Test a few ketchup sachets in a bowl of water to see if they float, not all of them will have an air pocket in.
Add an unopened sachet of ketchup to the bottle. The sachet should float, but if it doesn’t, try adding some salt to the water. Salt increases the density of water, making the sachet float better.
Make sure the bottle is full of water to the top.
Screw on the top very tightly and squeeze the bottle hard.
The sauce submarine will sink to the bottom. If you let go it will float back up.
You can challenge other people to get the sachet to the bottom, lots of people will try and shake it or turn it upside down!
This experiment is all to do with how things float, or the buoyancy of an object. Water pushes up on the ketchup packet with the force equal to the weight of the water that the ketchup packet pushes out the way. If the displaced water is heavier than the sachet, then it will float because it is less dense than the water.
When you squeeze the bottle you apply pressure to the liquid inside. Liquids cant be compressed (squashed) so the pressure is transmitted to the sachet. The ketchup sachet has some nitrogen gas in (to keep it fresh). The gas is compressed and the sachet sinks and therefore displaces less water and sinks. As soon as you let go the sachet expands again and floats.
Submarines use similar systems to allow them to sink and float easily.