Universities in the north west take the IOP Undergraduate Challenge

6 April 2018

Twenty students from three universities in the north west of England took part in a Physics Undergraduate Challenge organised by IOP on 21 March

Universities in the north west take the IOP Undergraduate Challenge

Undergraduates entering the competition were challenged to make a spectrometer to calculate the distance between grooves on a CD, which act as diffraction gratings, using simple equipment including a cornflake box and a sodium lamp. They were then tasked with explaining what they had made and pitching it as a product to a manufacturer – in this case Stockport-based company Laser Quantum, which currently recruits around 30 physics graduates each year and which gave support on the day.

The event at the University of Manchester involved two teams of first-year students from both Lancaster University and the University of Lancashire (UCLan) and one from the University of Manchester. The prize of £250 was won by one of the Lancaster University teams, comprising Adam Goodman, Adam Speers, Tania Gomes Machado and team leader James Gold (pictured below, left to right and flanked by our North West Regional Officer, Hannah Renshall, on the left and Natasha Mupasi, Laser Team Development Manager at Laser Quantum, on the right).

Natasha, a University of Manchester graduate and long-standing IOP volunteer, oversaw and judged the entire competition from the perspective of what she looks for in a new employee.

Universities in the north west take the IOP Undergraduate Challenge

Dr Emma Nichols, Ogden Science Officer at the University of Manchester, provided the venue and welcomed visiting academics from the students’ universities who had helped to recruit participating students and arrange their trip to the venue. She also showed them around the university’s new annexe and teaching lab facilities. She said: “This is the first time Manchester’s taken part in the undergrad challenge and it’s definitely something I’ll get more of our students involved in next year. All the teams turned in some impressive models and presentations, and it was great to get to host the event and show our new facilities to the students and staff.”

Teaching Fellow Dr Chris Bowdery organised the teams from Lancaster University. He said: “This was Lancaster’s first involvement with the IOP Undergraduate Physics Challenge and we are delighted that one of our student teams walked away with the first prize. Of course we are proud of both of our teams. Thanks are due to the University of Manchester for hosting the competition in the new annexe of the Schuster Laboratory and to Hannah for making it happen.”

Hannah, who organised the challenge, said: “This IOP event was all about providing young physics students with an opportunity to develop skills necessary to succeed in the workplace that they aren’t able to develop in the course of their undergraduate degrees. The support and enthusiasm for the competition from the participating universities was invaluable and we are all looking forward to widening it to include more universities and to invite other employers to support the competition as Laser Quantum has done this year.”

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