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Designers use STEM skills to make egg-launching rockets

October 8th, 2015

Budding engineers learnt how to design and make rockets to safely launch eggs through the air during an explosive day of teamwork and problem-solving.

Nearly 80 children gathered at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls on Tuesday to take part in the annual STEMworks event, sponsored by engineering pioneer Renishaw.

Year 5 pupils from eight schools, including Inglefield House and The Grange, were split into mixed teams of five and threw themselves into the challenge of designing the most aerodynamic rockets on a budget.

The aim was to build the vessel which would carry a fresh egg as far as possible without it breaking, after being fired up a ramp using a pneumatic firing system.

Simon Kettle, director of STEMWorks, said: “I started off with asking the pupils what they think an engineer looks like, and got them to draw one.

“I did that because at this age they have misconceptions of what engineers actually do. All of the pupils had drawn a man – even the girls.

“And they were all holding toolboxes, spanners, hammers, that sort of thing.”

Simon told the pupils that an engineer’s main tool these days is a laptop, and assured them the profession is definitely not just for men.

He then set them their brief for the day, and asked each team to assign the roles of buyer, presentation manager, vehicle constructer, egg protector, and firing tube maker.

“The aim is to encourage more young people to enter into STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) as careers,” Simon added.

“Today is about communication, teamwork and problem-solving, and it’s great to see all the schools working together to come up with the best solutions.

“How often do kids at school get the chance to make a mistake, modify it and correct it?”

Simon believes that Year 5 is the perfect time to get children excited about STEM topics.

“At nine or 10-years-old, they can be so creative,” he said.

“When they get older they feel more restricted – now they’re less bothered about things not working and happier to try things out.

“If you’re after creative problem-solving, it would be brilliant if you could bottle what they have now and give it to a 30-year-old.”

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Pupils were able to test their designs on the rocket launcher and modify them throughout the day, until the time came to present their work to the whole group.

To teach the children about being eco-friendly and cost-effective, buyers in each team were tasked with managing the budget.

Each item from the shop, including bubble wrap, newspaper, tape and sheet card, was priced so teams had limited access to materials.

Lottie, a pupil at Inglefield House, was the firing tube maker of her group.

She said: “Today I’ve learnt how to make a rocket.

“We made a box and put wheels on it to make it slide better – then we put the egg inside.

“We taped one end up so it doesn’t fall out and wrapped it in bubble wrap and newspaper.

“Last time we tested it, it went two metres.

“The thing I liked most about today was meeting all the people and getting the chance to do these things.”

When asked what she was hoping to achieve by the end of the day, Lottie simply replied: “Brilliance.”

Click here for more information on STEMworks.

And follow this link to see the picture gallery on Flickr.

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