The Perse School

Students reach final of National Science and Engineering Competition

27 Feb 2012

We are delighted that Ivo Dawkins, Tom Myers, and Peter Fryers have all been invited to take part in the finals of the National Science and Engineering Competition. The competition is open to all 11-18 year olds living in the UK and will be held at the NEC in Birmingham, on the 15th, 16th and 17th of March. Entrants are judged by age category and for top prizes as 'Young Scientist' and UK 'Young Engineer' of the year. All of their projects came out of work carried out last summer as part of their Nuffield Science Bursary research projects.  At The Perse, five of our students gained these prestigious bursaries and eight others achieved Gold CREST awards for taking on similar projects.

Ivo’s project was in the Aerospace Design Office at Marshall Aerospace in Cambridge. The aim of his project was to assess the ignition characteristics of kerosene-based jet fuels and to define a set of maximum safe working conditions for hot surfaces surrounding aircraft fuel systems to prevent fires. A key motivation behind the project was to prevent a repeat of the tragic crash of an RAF Nimrod aircraft over Afghanistan in 2006 with the loss of all 14 crew members in the largest single loss of life for the Air Force since the Falklands war. The cause of the accident was attributed to the ignition of jet fuel on hot ducts aboard the aircraft.  Ivo approached the issue by extrapolating and interpreting data from existing reports, then building up mathematical models. The end result was a set of design rules governing the maximum safe working temperatures and ventilation levels surrounding fuel systems.

 Tom spent four weeks working at the Institute of Astronomy, searching through a recent release of data to find previously unknown gravitational lensing systems. Gravitational lensing is an effect where the gravity of one galaxy is so great that it bends the light from another in a manner similar to an ordinary glass lens, but on a far vaster scale. The photo (right) is of the nine systems he and his team found.

Peter Fryers’ project was to test an electricity sensor designed and prototyped by Sentec Ltd.  The sensor unit clips onto electricity cables in distribution transformers in the power supply network and measures current to allow more efficient regulation and supply in the nationwide system. For success in its designed role it must be very sensitive to current within itself but as insensitive as possible to effects outside of it such as magnetic fields caused by alternating current in external cables (cross coupling) and nearby magnetically permeable materials (other similar units). The shape and pattern of these sensitivities were recorded to characterise the sensors and identify ways in which the sensor could be improved. The results from his project tend to suggest a consistent fault in construction which is causing unexpected patterns in magnetic fields. Also nearby sensors do have a significant effect on a sensor’s sensitivity and this is equally undesirable.

The graph above shows the mean data from 5 sensor units conducted at low voltage. On the z-axis is the percentage cross coupling (the mutual inductance between the coil placed near the sensor and the coils in the sensor itself). The x and y axes show the horizontal displacement away from the sensor on a 2D grid.



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