Engineering — it is rocket science

Rachel Thomas Share this page

Engineering — it is rocket science

As we have been discovering through our Constructing our lives project, engineering provides some of the most exciting applications of maths that have great impact on all our lives every day. Now you have a chance to try your hand at engineering yourself as part of the Royal Institution's Engineering Week from the 15 to 19 August.

This summer the Royal Institution is running a series of workshops for 14 to 17 year-olds on underwater robotics, rocket science, designing the hip joint and crash testing. The week builds on the RI's very successful pilot project of engineering masterclasses run in 2008 and 2009. The RI has been running mathematics masterclasses for over 30 years allowing students from around the UK to explore the wonder of maths. The engineering masterclasses offered the opportunity to use the same model for students to explore engineering and get hands-on experience of the importance of engineering in our daily lives. Importantly, they also allowed students to meet practicing engineers, who designed and ran the masterclasses, giving them an insight into the real world of engineering. As one participating engineer put it, "From my previous experiences in recruiting young engineers, teaching kids what an engineer actually does for a job is half the battle!". As well as benefitting students, the masteclasses also allowed the engineers to improve their own communication skills and help inspire the next generation of engineers.


Students built hip joints using strings to act as the muscles

Two of the masterclass topics are now part of this summer's Engineering Week. Engineer Andrew Philips explores the question "why don't we fall over when we stand up?" in a workshop on how mathematical principles are used in biomechanics, in particular in designing replacement hip joints. Students use full-sized models of a femur and pelvis, with muscles formed out of strings, to build and balance a hip joint.

Another masterclass about crash testing, is also featuring in the Engineering Week. In this workshop Dinos Visvikis explains how the mathematical laws of physics are used to protect people in car crashes. Students build their own model cars, and then have to improve their design and construction so that they perform better in crash tests.

The RI is now looking to expand the Engineering Masterclasses around the UK. They are already developing a series of masterclasses in Croydon. The team at the RI will help participating engineers develop a 2.5 hour masterclass, with training and preparation, practice sessions in schools. So if you are an engineer, school or student from around the UK that wishes to be involved get in touch with the team at the RI.

And don't forget to book in and try out engineering yourself during the workshops this Summer!



Can't wait to see them in my area Croydon, it would be a good class to attend. Robotics is a life changing field.