23.07.14 - Rolls-Royce Revs up Students’ Interest in Science

Rolls-Royce engineers set a slippery science challenge for Year 10 students at Ockbrook School as part of a workshop to inspire young people about the role Physics, Mathematics, ICT and Science play in extreme sports.

James Dash, a Mechanical Design Engineer with Rolls-Royce Submarines was joined by colleague Nicholas Alexander, a Thermo Fluid Engineer within the Nuclear Propulsion Systems function of Rolls-Royce Submarines. The engineering experts set students a challenge, designed by the Royal Academy of Engineering, to build a ‘bob skeleton’, made famous by British Olympic Gold medal athletes Amy Williams and Lizzy Arnold.

Fifteen year old Year 10 student Molly Watling took part in the challenge. She said: “Everything we did during the course of the day was designed to help us answer which is more important in the bob skeleton event, the athlete or the machine? We looked at the importance of aerodynamics in bob design, the role the athlete takes in the sport, as well as down force and friction. We undertook various experiments and tests and concluded, rightly or wrongly, that it’s the combination of the athlete and the machine that creates the winning combination.”

Bob skeleton is a fast winter sliding sport in which a person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down, during which the rider experiences forces up to 5g and reaches speeds over 80 mph. The sport was named from the bony appearance of the sled. It was added to the Olympic program for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Neil Gupta, Head of Physics, Ockbrook School, says: “It’s a real challenge getting young people to understand the exciting role that the sciences play in everyday life. This workshop was fantastic as it showed clearly the relationship between adrenalin-fuelled extreme sports and the practicalities of engineering, science and design to deliver high performance capabilities.”

James Dash, a Mechanical Design Engineer with Rolls-Royce Submarines and workshop facilitator said: “Olympic athletes like Amy Williams and Lizzy Arnold put their lives in the hands of engineers, scientists and mathematicians so we need to make sure that the science that enables Olympic success is fully tested and proven before we put it to work on the ice.

“This workshop is all about conveying the message to young people that all the behind the scenes work undertaken by scientists and engineers is what can provide the winning margins for athletes like Amy and Lizzy.”

Neil Gupta concludes: “A big thanks goes out from all our students to James and Nicholas from Rolls Royce who really brought the workshop to life. I’m sure this will enhance everyone’s understanding of some of the topics covered during the IGCSE Physics course.”

Students built and tested a 1:5 scale model of the skeleton bob, investigating the Mathematics and Physics involved in the design of the skeleton bob. In the final part of the day students presented their findings.