Stem Clubs Activities
30th November 2009
Wind turbines are designed to exploit the wind energy that exists at a location. Aerodynamic modeling is used to determine the optimum tower height, control systems, number of blades, and blade shape. Virtually all modern wind turbines convert wind energy to electricity for energy distribution
Your objective is to build a wind turbine that will cost as little as possible yet generate as much energy as possible. Your tower must be structurally sound as heavy components and moving parts may be at the top. The tower must also be free standing. Your models will be tested on a preset table with the aid of electric fans.
27th November 2009
The group have been focusing this half term on Electronic Product design using PICAXE. They have also used the laser cutter.
The sutdents have designed a range of products including ‘safe at night lights’ and ‘credit card torches’
26th November 2009
light gates are used to measure the velocity of falling blood drops at different heights.
The blood drops land on various surfaces and the splatter pattern is photographed.
25th November 2009
We have invited a photographer in to school and he brought in different cameras and telescopes to show how to take photographs from far away to look really close! He brought in photos that he had taken of the moon which showed all of the crators. Students brought in their own digital camera and was shown how to capture light and darkness in the classroom. We have asked the photographer to be involved for 3 weeks and he will take the students outside to photograph pictures of the moon (weather permitted!!!)
The photographer will introduce the students to Photoshop and they can use the software to adjust/change photos.
25th November 2009
On 26th June Science Club students travelled to Broadlands School to join clubs from other local schools in celebrating the activities that they have been engaged in during 2008-2009. About 50 students from Bedminster Down, Mangotsfield School, Broadlands School and our own Hanham High created posters to show-off the various activities they have been involved in so far this year. After KS3 pupils from the school had had the chance to look at all the displayed work, club members got stuck into an air balloon racing car competition. Working in teams of 4, pupils had just an hour to plan, build and race a balloon-powered vehicle before and exciting head-to-head race to find the best.
After lunch, Dr Tim Harrison from Bristol University’s Chemistry Department gave a fantastic, fun-filled lecture on the gases of the Earth’s atmosphere. As well as the usual “treats” of seeing liquid nitrogen and solid carbon dioxide, Dr Harrison used some very unusual, visual displays to help pupils understand some of the more subtle chemistries of oxygen (such as catalytic conversion of weapon’s grade hydrogen peroxide in the presence of fairy liquid and green food colouring) and flammable vapours (by burning rocket fuel in empty water cooler containers).
Prizes and certificates were given at the end of the day and everyone who took part said what a fantastic day it had been – even the teachers!
STEMNET is keen to encourage similar events across the UK and another local event is currently being planned again for 2009-2010 where even more schools will hopefully take part. Pupils at Hanham are already working on their display material and the hands-on activities to keep the audiences fully engaged!
25th November 2009
Students experimented with different coloured glow sticks measuring the amount of light given off and the duration of the chemiluminescence.
Glow sticks are used extensively as safety devices in situations where the need to be seen is important and reliability is required, i.e. batteries that can leak or go flat when stored in exposed or difficult conditions cannot match the durability of two chemicals stored in robust plastic containers with “shelf lives” of many years. They are, of course, more commonly seen at music festivals and fairgrounds where they are sold as safe and cheap alternatives to open heat sources (sparklers) or electronic devices.
Pupils used small hacksaws to carefully cut the sealed tops from Gelert Glow Sticks (available at most campling shops) of various colours. The plastic capsule contents were decanted to beakers whilst retaining the inner glass container. Breaking the ends off the glass container was completed using pliers whilst the container was held within a cotton wrap to prevent glass cuts.
After their mixing experiments pupils made several observations. The most interesting being that the external walls of the glass beakers used for mixing acted like “optical fibres” since the light could clearly be seen more strongly at the beakers tops edges (see the pictures). Pupils also noted that the pictures they took were so well illuminated by the light being given off that the camera did not need a flash even though the room was darkness!
25th November 2009
Instead of doing the usual (and obvious) stuff on fireworks during bonfire night week we decided to try to fly some Chinese Lanterns. We had tried to source the lanterns for some time so it was quite a surprise to find them very cheaply priced in a pound shop during the October half-term whilst shopping in Exeter!
Club pupils had already been doing some experiments on using hot air to “lift” objects but realised that the force generated by paper bags was not significant enough to move all but the smallest of objects. Pupils came to the conclusion that they either needed a source of heat that was much smaller in mass but released more heat energy (they had originally used night lights removed from their aluminium containers) or else a much bigger “bag” for the hot air to be held in.
Another failrly obvious problem that was very difficult to solve was the fact that the lighest materials we could find to make large bags from were often the most flammable and after not being able to resolve the “in flight fireball” issue, we gave up trying to make our own hot air balloons until we got the Chinese Lanterns.
The Lanterns are made from tissue (so quite fragile) but had been treated with fire retardants to prevent them from igniting in flight. They did prove to be quite difficut to burn (though not impossible!). What surprised most of the pupils was how big they were – almost three times bigger than anything that they themselves had tried when making their own hot air balloons.
In flight the Lanterns were amazingly stable (provided they weren’t being flown in overly windy conditions) and rose to an altitude so high in the sky that pupils lost sight of them (we tracked them with Mr Hardman’s binoculars till we could see them no more). The precautions on the instructions mentioned not to fly them in known aircraft flight paths or airport runways and that the Lanterns could reach heights of over 1 mile!
The pictures show club pupils and staff lighting and launching lanterns next to the D&T block (you can just make out our bird boxes from last year if you look carefully!).
25th November 2009
ASSEC club members cooked various foodstuffs over “open fires” including boiling eggs in paper cups and cooking cakes in hollowed-out oranges. Techniques used for cooking foodstuffs in the absence of a cooker or proper cooking utensils is often referred to backwoods cooking and is common in the scouting movement and other uniformed youth movements (see
Many of the techniques can be used though to teach conduction, convection and radation (transfer of thermal energy) in a more exciting and stimulating way.
We also took this opportunity to demonstrate some other unusual “food techniques” that can be understood more fully using science such as why popcorn pops, how is crunchie made and how to make caramel from sugar. The owner of the Fat Duck would have been proud!
25th November 2009
After all the hard work and enthusiasm that club members had put into their projects this year it was with great excitement that club members greeted the news that they had been asked by STEMNET club network organisers to attend the launch ceremony for ASSEC clubs across the UK.
Six pupils were selected to travel to London for the day and to talk to MPs, STEM organisers, engineers and educationalists about their projects and to be there during the official launch celebrations. It was a great honour to be recognised and selected for this event so the competition for places was hotly contended by our club members.
After being dropped off on Parliament Square by the Houses of Parliament, pupils headed for the Council Chambers in Dean’s Yard where they set up their displays and got ready to do deliver their PowerPoint presentations to the assembled dignitaries. Mr Matthew Tosh of STEMNET opened the proceedings after which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools Diana Johnson MP spoke to the audience about her role within the government and why supporting and encouraging Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects in schools is so important. Immediately afterwards, life peer and former minister for Science and Innovation Lord Sainsbury spoke in support of after-school clubs and how important they are for inspiring and encouraging pupils to study STEM subjects in the future. Our pupils, followed by pupils from Tanfield School in Durham, then gave their presentations – both of which were received fantastically well by the audience.
A reporter and camera team from Teachers’ TV were present and recorded the event.
After the talks Lord Sainsbury spoke with the pupils and showed great interest in the projects they have been completing. In the pictures you can see Oliver Adams (then in Year 8), Lord Sainsbury and Mr G Hardman discussing motion-detection equipment that club members have been able to take home to capture images of hedgehogs, cats and slug- eating frogs during the night! Do look at our other projects where you can see uploaded videos from the pupils’ own gardens featuring all creatures great and small!
After the hard work of impressing so many important people in the world of government and industry pupils headed off across Westminster Bridge for a flight on the London Eye to study its impressive engineering. In the pictures you can see students in an eye capsule high above central London. After the 30-minute flight pupils purchased photos of themselves from the souvenir shop and then headed off to the Natural History Museum.
25th November 2009
Pupils at Hanhan High School ASSEC were invited to attend the Charlie Duke Lecture at the Leicester Space Centre.
After a start that no pupil in club has ever seen before (they had to be on the minibus at 6am in the morning!) we set of on the long journey to Leicester. A small stop at the motorway services and 3 hours later we arrived safely and were greeted by STEMNET and Space Centre Staff. Nine schools in total from around the UK were present and the morning’s activities were all spaced themed. STEM ambassadors were at hand to do all the hard work of leading the workshops and entertaining the pupils all morning so all of the teachers were able to engage in some excellent CPD provided by STEM and Space Centre staff.
The workshops pupils were involved in were as follows:
10.00 – 12.50 3 × 50 min workshops supported by STEM Ambassadors:
o Astronomy activity workshop o EADS Astrium Mars Rover activity o National Space Centre workshop
After lunch staff and pupils were treated to an excelllent theatre show called ‘We are Astronomers’ narrated by David Tennant. More information about the NSC’s award-winning theatre and state-of-the-art shows can be found at http://www.spacecentre.co.uk/Page.aspx/224/SPACE_THEATRE/
‘We are Astronomers’ is also showing at other theatres and 360s around the UK – we definitely recommend you see the show if you get the chance – it was absolutely amazing! (see http://weareastronomers.com/ for other venues near to you).
After the show we were then taken into a lecture theatre for the event of the day – Charlie Duke’s Lecture on his accounts of his time as an astronaut for NASA. Charles Duke is a retired USAF Brigadier General and was a United States astronaut and engineer for NASA. He is the youngest of only twelve people who have walked on the moon. He spoke with passion, humour and verve about his adventures and really was an inspiration to the pupils assembled. He’s clearly an advocate of STEM technologies and mentioned several times the importance of education and technology for the future of mankind. Using original NASA pictures and video footage he took us on a complete voyage from training through lift off to living on the moon’s surface for 72hrs and back to Earth again.
After his talk pupils were allowed to ask him questions all about how he saw the future of space travel, how hard the training was and whether or not he believed in aliens!
After photographs, pupils were allowed to have a brief tour of the museum before leaving for the long trip back home (not quite as long as the 3 days it took to get to the moon though!).
25th November 2009
Using cardboard boxes, mirrors and glue guns, pupils created their own periscopes. Lots of skills were involved in the creation of these so called “toys” including understanding light rays/paths, using cutting tools for thick card and glass/plastic mirrors and the use of hot melt glue guns.
After trialing flat sheets of thin card, pupils trialed corrugated card and found the stiffness of this material much more satisfactory in the creation of the tubes required to keep the mirrors in place.
A quick internet search found several companies that could provide us with pre-formed cardboard boxes. After sampling the materials students found that the double thickness card containers used for shipping standard wine bottles (70cl) were perfect for making the periscopes from.
The main difficulty was in “sizing” the mirrors. Plastic mirrors are easier to work with since they can be cut with robust scissors or tin snips but the poor optical quality of the plastic means that the images formed were less than satisfactory. After creating a periscope with small glass mirrors and finding that the image quality was far superior we decided that finding a cheap source of glass mirrors would be our best bet.
Luckily, upon scouring the local DIY stores, we found one store was that had multi-packs of bathroom mirrors at rock bottom prices. We were able to purchase 25 mirrors (unfortunately way to big) for less than £5. What we were then able to do was use a diamond tile cutter to shape them. After grinding the edges to make them safe, these were then used by students to glue into their periscopes.
Some students also painted the insides of their tubes with matt black poster paint to remove unwanted reflections down the tube.
25th November 2009
Pupils designed, constructed and flew various kites. These will be scaled up so that eventually a remote camera will be used for aerial photography of the school and local landmarks (otherwise known as Kite Aerial Photography or KAP).
Initially, standard deltas were constructed and pupils took these home to fly. Construction materials were not sophisticated (as you can see, sail materials were carrier bags held in place with sticky tape with spars made from 2-4mm wooden dowel held together by rubber or PVC tubing cut appropriately).
Pupils then progressed onto box kites – initially using balsa to make small boxes (these flew surprisingly well) then larger boxes using more sophisticated materials. The box kite shown uses 3mm fibreglass rods with ripstop sails with cross-spars held in place using proper rubber joiners.
Box designs were taken from ‘Kite Projects for Design & Technology’ published by Cochranes of Oxford Ltd. ( http://www.cochranes.co.uk ) which contains several kite designs, resources and ideas for KS1 through to GNVQ Level. The booklet cost £12.00 and once purchased can be photocopied for school use.
Specialist kite making materials were obtained from the Bristol Kite Store (www.kitestore.co.uk) on 39A Cotham Hill, Bristol, BS6 6JY, telephone number 07951 028378.