STEM Trip to Brunel University
On 26th April, 30 Year 9 students were invited to visit Brunel University for a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) trip. Our enthusiasm cannot be expressed in words as everyone couldn’t wait to experience what the university lifestyle would be like. We were greeted by student ambassadors who were extremely friendly and very welcoming. Immediately we began our exploration of Brunel University campus, starting with the sport centre which was fascinating because it provided so many facilities. Our tour also included a visit to the lecture centre, main campus centre, the library and many other locations.
Then we were brought into a room, where we sat in pairs, and enjoyed some of the snacks they had prepared for us to have. We were given an introduction to the programme for the day and then started our first activity about robots. The student ambassadors helped us by questioning and actually supporting us with the exercises. We learnt how robots could be programmed to do many diverse things! We were given a colour sensing robot with which we were challenged to see who could get the robot to go along different paths, passing check points 1 to 4. Everyone was enchanted by how the miniature robot worked; it made us curious to ask questions! We were all charged up with desire to be first. We made mistakes but we received help and overcame the challenges and moved forward. We learnt practical problem-solving skills, and to be patient with the equipment and enjoyed it a great deal.
In the second activity the student ambassadors discussed with us how essential it is to design cars which are efficient and sustainable for the future. Then we were given a task to make a car using k’nex pieces, with an elastic band to power it. Whilst everyone was absorbed in making their car, some people faced problems of how to make it aerodynamic so the car could travel faster, also how to distribute the weight of the car evenly. After having finished our cars we had the opportunity to see how far they could travel. We laughed and cheered for the all the cars as they zoomed past, with some successful trials whilst others needed some improvement. We learnt a great deal about what real engineers have to consider when making cars for the mass population.
During lunch, we were given a presentation on budgeting for university. Personally I found it extremely helpful because it opened my eyes to how much it would cost to rent a suite per month in the university campus. I have to consider which changes to make to not spend too much or have enough to pay for everything I would need. Whilst doing the task, I was shocked to find out that many things needed to be considered, like a TV licence. Who would have thought of that? I was grateful for the tips they had given to us about what how we can save up for university.
Everyone was especially looking forward to the Chocolate Welding activity. Again we had to use our creative and constructive minds to build a structure with the 4 chocolate bars we were given. This required more thinking of how to utilise resources effectively. Some students cleverly used scissors and rulers from their pencil cases to cut out pieces of chocolate without breaking them, measuring accurately how much to cut. Everyone’s structures were compared to see which was the best built and the strongest. The ambassadors put weights from 100 grams to 1 kilogram to observe which would hold the most weight. It was extremely intense as people held their breath to see if their structure would be victorious.
The STEM trip to Brunel University was an exhilarating, inspiring and exciting experience for everyone. The chance to use the flight simulator at Brunel University Engineering Laboratory, was an eye opener into the world of aviation. Furthermore we got an insight into the way plane movements are executed (e.g. the elevators control pitch and flaps give the wings more surface area to create more lift). As well as exploring aviation at Brunel University, we were also given the opportunity to explore the sports car laboratory. We learned about the great achievements of the students at Brunel University and the projects they have undertaken; such as building their own race cars from scratch! It completely opened my mind! The flight simulator was the highlight of the trip for me. It was an unforgettable experience even though it felt like it lasted only a few minutes.
At the end, all the points were counted up and a prize was awarded to each of the top 3 winners.
All students had written about what they thought of the trip and here are some of their thoughts:
Elia: “It was a very enlightening experience that highlighted the huge range of opportunities universities could provide.”
“The experience was great! We engaged with the students from the university and we learnt a lot about engineering, technology and university life. I am lucky to have had this opportunity.”
“I enjoyed the experience, especially playing with the robots and trying to get them around the course.”
“Today the trip gave us a very informative and clear insight into the vibrant and lively dimension of the future. It really helped us enhance our skills and brought out the pure talent hidden in some of the students.”
Besides the academic side of University, we learned what university life would be like and the costs involved. Many of us were exceptionally impressed by how much the students actually do by themselves. In addition, it was remarkable to see the variety of topics that students can study in engineering. We were told how everything we did throughout the day connected together, demonstrating how engineering processes work together to establish something spectacular.
A special thanks to Ms Bharadawa and Ms Charles for taking care of us during this enlightening journey.
By Zuairia Chowdhury and Sanjula Hettiarachchige