Cracking Feats of Engineering at AWE’s Schools Engineering Challenge 2011

26 August 2011

How to save an egg from destruction was the challenge facing ten school-groups from across the South East when they arrived at the AWE engineering challenge in Tadley.

The task, which was put together by a team of AWE’s engineering graduates, saw the young engineers design and build a structure to protect an egg from some fiendishly devised tests. 

In reality this saw their efforts tested to destruction by dropping heavy masses on the unsuspecting structures.

This time around both the Institute of Chemical Engineers and the Institute of Physics were invited to join in the cracking fun at the community centre. 

Each year the challenge represents not only an exciting way to get students engaging in science, but also the ideal opportunity to start young people thinking about the career they could have if they choose to study a STEM subject at university.

In the morning session materials were provided to build the devices. This consisted of wooden planks of varying lengths and thickness, with some sticky tack thrown in for good measure. 

The catch was that all the items were priced, and the students charged according to what materials they had used. To win it was important not only to build a durable case to protect the egg from bombardment, but also to spend the least amount of money possible.

After the frenzied building of the morning had stopped and the scissors were put away, tension mounted as the students gathered round to watch the graduates start the testing. 

There were three rounds in total with each seeing the mass and height increase until 6kgs were dropped from one metre. As if that wasn’t enough, the egg shelters also had to withstand a sideward impact in each round. 

As you can imagine, there was carnage and destruction a plenty as the scene started to resemble that of an accident in a pastry chef’s kitchen. 

After all that only one team made it through to the final round, although once budgets were taken into account it was St Bartholomew’s School in Newbury that came out on top, but who had actually crashed out in an earlier round. 

They received a trophy and £750 to spend on scientific or technical equipment for their school.

To show just how difficult the challenge was and for fun a team of teachers and a team of exhibitors respectively (IOP was part of the latter) took part in the challenge. 

Even though the exhibitors’ team did reasonably well and working on the project was enjoyable, the real satisfaction came when talking to the students about what they can do if they follow a science career path. 

Judging from the enthusiasm on the day there is little doubt that some of the UK’s future scientist took part in AWE’s Schools Engineering Challenge 2011.