Salford students win IOP’s first North West Undergraduate Challenge

24 April 2015

Students from the University of Salford built a cheap and efficient electric motor to win the Institute’s first North West Undergraduate Challenge, beating teams from across the North West to the prize.

Salford students win IOP’s first North West Undergraduate Challenge

Teams of undergraduates from around the region have been working hard since the start of the year to build electric motors with a maximum budget of £30, with the greatest possible speed and torque, powered only by a 9 V battery.

The competitors had to devise creative ways to measure the results achieved, with tricks such as blocking a beam of light on each rotation. The judges were also looking for how well the students communicated their work through presentations and posters.

Students from the University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and the University of Central Lancashire have been working on the projects at their own institutions as part of their courses or as an extra-curricular activity, with the best two from each university coming together for the final showdown on 22 April at MMU.

The “Salfordian Spinners” team of Alex Burgess, Nafiska Theodoropoulou and Heather Pearce (left to right in the picture) impressed the judges on the day, winning a cheque for £250. “Team Reality” from MMU were the runners-up.

The limited budget meant that creative scavenging and ingenious use of materials played a key role in the students’ motors. Magnets from speakers, wood from a pallet and bearings made from the necks of plastic bottles were all brought into use.

Not everything had worked first time; one team told how their final design was the “mark 5” version. But the teams were not disheartened by their early failures, and used these experiences to make improvements until they had a working design.

Although it was meant to be fun, the competition also had a serious point. The aim was to provide physics students with opportunities to learn what it takes to design a product in the real world, project management skills and teamwork, and to demonstrate employability.

Prof. Alison McMillan, the IOP’s vice president for business, (pictured) was one of the judges and presented the prizes.

Summing up what the challenge meant for the students, the Late Starts team from Salford said: “It was countless hours of hard work and frustration but we learned lots and had fun.”