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The Curiosity Project

  • Kevin Arlott 23/10/2016

    Siemens Curiosity City - Hack Manchester Junior

     At this year’s Manchester Science Festival, Siemens is supporting Hack Manchester Junior - an exciting day that brings junior hackers together to code solutions to real problems. 

     

    At Siemens, we’re all about making life easier for people. Whether it’s moving them across the country safely and on time with high-tech trains, creating life-saving health technologies or developing the latest green energy innovations to keeps people’s lives powered.  With this in mind, we’d like you to put your coding and engineering skills to work and build a physical object that triggers a virtual action, or vica versa.  You can make it as a fun and as noisy as you want!

     

    Siemens Curiosity City

    Visit Siemens Curiosity City to explore different engineering challenges and topics, and create some code to find a solution to a problem that will make life easier for Curiosity City citizens.

     

    Here are some ideas to get you started:

    Trains: How do train companies tell their passengers of delays to their services in a better way? Text messages?  An app? Write the code that could support a solution for train companies.

    Buses: Ever watch empty buses go by, while you wait for a bus that eventually pulls up completely full? Could you create some code that could divert empty buses to busier bus routes?

    Health: Could you code an app that would remind a patient to take his/her medicine at the right time?

    Airports: Could you write some code to direct planes to the right gates?

    Wind turbines: Could you write some code to turn the turbine on an off? Or change directions with the wind?

     

    Judging Criteria - what our judge is looking for in the winning entry:

    • Originality of idea - can it solve the problem effectively?
    • Execution of the idea and quality of the code produced
    • How well you work in a team

     

    Prizes for the winners

    Each team member will win:

    • A ticket to Alton Towers
    • A £25 Maplin voucher
    • Your team’s code will be featured on the Curiosity Project blog

     

    Ajibola Fatimelehin

     

    Competition judge – Ajibola Fatimilehin

    I studied Electrical Electronic Engineering at the University of Manchester and I’m now on the Siemens Energy Sector Rotational Graduate Programme, currently working as a Control Systems Software Engineer.

     

    Why I love engineering

    Engineering is basically problem solving, which I really enjoy! I love engineering a solution that’s fit for purpose, despite challenges like time and financial constraints. For me, studying Electrical and Electronic Engineering was a no brainer, I liked gadgets and always tried to understand how they functioned. Now my love for engineering has evolved. I spend my working days finding solutions to problems related to energy for a better, greener and sustainable future.

     

    Good luck! We look forward to seeing you!

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 23- make a heart-shaped egg

     

     

    If someone said that the eggs that you had cooked them were rubbery, you probably be (quite rightly) offended. But did you know that you can make eggs behave like plastic without changing their taste?

     

    Plastics are divided into two types: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics. There’s a small but crucial difference; thermosetting plastics stay as they are once you heat them – they’ll always be that shape, but thermoplastics can be re-heated and re-shaped many times.

     

    We’re going to create a thermosetting egg!

     

    So imagine there’s someone special that you want to say a really thoughtful thank you to – perhaps a grown up, or a scientist or engineer. Breakfast in bed is always popular, what could be nicer? Heart shaped eggs perhaps?

     

    How to do it:

     

    This is a low-tech experiment to prove something quite advanced, but the low tech still requires care!

     

    You’ll need:

     

    An empty tetra pak carton
    An egg
    A pencil
    Two rubber bands
    A saucepan
    Water

     

    We’ll begin by boiling an egg. Do it for long enough to hard boil it – seven minutes should be sufficient. While the egg is boiling in the water carefully cut the top and bottom off the tetra pak carton. Then, cut down two of the creases so that you have two V shaped sections of pack.

     

    Once the egg is boiled, take it out and let it stand for a couple of minutes to cool a little.

     

    When it is cool enough to handle in kitchen roll, peel all the shell off the egg. Get one of the V shaped pieces of tetra pak and put the egg in it with the point of the V pointing downward. Take the pencil and press it firmly into the top of the egg (with the pencil running along the line of the V of the tetra pak). It should make a centimetre dent easily.

     

    One at a time, put the rubber bands around the ends of the pencil and tetra pak so that they keep the pencil pushed firmly into the egg. Now pop the egg in the fridge for an hour. (This is you thermosetting it!)

     

    When you take the egg out after the hour, you’ll have a heart shaped egg! You’ll be able to slice it into heart shaped pieces and make a salad to show someone how great you think they are!

     

    Extension task:

     

    Since you can thermoset an egg now, can you make a squared off egg, or a triangular egg?

     

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 30: hybrid fuel rocket engines

    This is one of the most amazing experiments we’ve ever done.

    It is possible to create a rocket engine that behaves in exactly the same manner as a NASA space rocket engine. In your kitchen...

    Of course, this is not one to do alone, nor without a responsible adult present. It will involve flame and chemical reactions, so we advise caution. But the results for what you can achieve at home are incredible.

    And when people ask what you’ve done over the summer holidays, you can tell them about the experiments and say, “it’s not rocket science. Apart from that final experiment, that actually rocket science.”

    You are going to create a hybrid rocket engine. It’s a solid fuel source and a liquid or gaseous oxidiser (to create the right mixture of oxygen to burn fiercely).

    The pure oxygen needed to burn the solid fuel – the pasta – is created when two chemicals mixed and decompose; hydrogen peroxide and yeast.

    How to do it:

    You are about to do impressive science here, but there should be an equal amount of preparation and caution that you use. Follow the guidelines carefully and use google to double check any queries you have, if you are in any doubt at all.

    You’ll need:

    Pasta (a tube type such as Rigatoni)
    Hydrogen peroxide
    Yeast
    A canning jar, or jam jar with lid
    Something to create a hole in the jam jar lid

    Firstly, punch a small hole in the lid you will use. If at all possible, drill one so that the lid doesn’t bend or deform.

    Fill the jar three quarters full with the hydrogen peroxide. (You need to work carefully and accurately, but quite quickly.)

    Add about a quarter teaspoon full of the yeast to the hydrogen peroxide and stir it in – it will start to bubble as the reaction begins to release pure oxygen.

    Put your lid with a hole in it on top. Note that you put the lid on top, not screw it down. This is a safety measure to ensure that too much pressure cannot build up. The hole in the top is now an exhaust through which the pure oxygen flows.

    Place the pasta directly over the hole in the lid. This becomes a sort of chimney, but will be the solid fuel source that will burn to create a rocket engine.

    Using all necessary safety precautions and getting an adult to do the lighting, the end of the pasta can be lit with matches or a lighter.

    The rocket now burns. This solid fuel source in conjunction with chemical decomposition is exactly the same concept as some multi billion dollar rocket engines use!

    From space cadet to rocket scientist in 30 minutes. Well done!

    Extension task:

    Due to the safety aspects of this experiment, there isn’t an extension task for this.

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 29: world record paper planes

    There are paper darts (which fly for a metre or two and then crash) and there are paper planes. Paper planes are proper pieces of engineering – which is what we are all about.

    Would you believe that there’s a design on paper plane that holds the world record for the longest flight at 69.14 metres – and that’s seven times longer than a London double decker bus, and nearly as long as one of our mammoth wind turbine blades being manufactured in Hull.

    How to do it:

    Siemens is great at many things – wind turbines being just one that we could mention – but we’ve never tried to create a world record breaking paper plane. So, we’re going to hand you over to someone who has.

    You’ll need:

    A4 paper
    A ruler
    Scissors

    Simply follow the instructions in this video of the design from world record holder John Collins:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDiC9iMcWTc

    Happy flying!

    Extension task:

    Devise your own completely original design that can fly more than 3 metres.

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 28: home hydraulics

    Air and water are two of the most common things on the planet, so common that we take them for granted. Now, obviously we know that water is a fluid, but did you know that in scientific terms, air is a fluid too?

    Both can also be used to multiply force to move things and accomplish things. Take, for example, the drills that Formula One teams use to loosen and tighten wheel nuts in those incredibly quick tyre changes – they’re powered by compressed air.

    Compressing air packs it together more tightly than normal, and it wants to go back to being less tightly packed – this is the energy that can be set free to do things.

    But did you also know that water cannot be compressed? Its volume will always be its volume – you cannot get it into a smaller package.

    How to do it:

    Knowing this fact about water, we can use this lack of squeezing potential to move things – this is hydraulics.

    You’ll need:

    A short length of tubing
    A balloon
    An empty can
    Tape
    An empty plastic bottle
    A funnel
    A heavy book
    Water
    Scissors

    Attach the balloon to the tubing with the tape – make sure that the seal is really good, it will need to be watertight. Test it be putting the tube over the funnel end and pouring water through it. When it is proven to be watertight, drain the balloon and tube fully.

    Cut the plastic bottle down so that it is just a little taller than the can – half a centimetre should be fine, it is so that the bottle guides the can.

    Using a pencil or the scissors (carefully!), make a hole in the side of the bottle towards the bottom. Feed the pipe and balloon through so that the balloon is at the bottom of the bottle on the inside.

    Place your heavy book on top of the bottle.

    Finally, attach the funnel to the pipe and fill it with water. The balloon will fill, expanding and the power of the expansion due to the water will lift the book. That’s hydraulics!

    Extension task:

    If you have scales available, test what the heaviest weight you can move with your hydraulic ram.

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 27: make ice cream

    This is one of the experiments that we like doing the most, can’t think why...

    What is interesting about this experiment – apart from giving you ice cream at the end – is that you can observe the change of state in the ice cream as you make it. You can do this observation elsewhere; such as in water, but this is more gradual and happens as you watch it. Water can have three states – liquid, solid (ice) or gas (steam). Here, you’ll gradually observe the change in state from liquid to solid.

    How to do it:

    This experiment is best done between 2 or 3 people, and not only because you get to treat people to ice cream!

    You’ll need:

    Half a cup of milk
    Half a cup of double cream
    Quarter of a cup of sugar
    Quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract
    Half to three quarters of a cup of table salt
    Two cups of ice
    Big Ziploc bag
    Small Ziploc bag
    Thermometer

    Put the milk, double cream, sugar and vanilla extract into the small Ziploc bag. Seal the bag to avoid leaks – strictly speaking, it doesn’t have to be a Ziploc bag – but it does stop a lot of mess!

    Put the ice into the big Ziploc bag. Take and record the temperature of the ice in the big bag at this point. Add the salt to the ice in the big bag.

    Put the small bag inside the big bag and seal it up.

    Rock the bag from side to side gently – it doesn’t need to be heavy, just a gentle rocking motion. This is where it’s good to do this with friends – keep gently rocking the bags from side to side for 15 minutes!

    Open the big bag and take the temperature again – what do you notice about the difference in temperature to the reading when it was just ice alone?

    Get bowls and enjoy your homemade ice cream with the team that made it!

    Extension task:

    Try adding chocolate chips, or some other commonly used pieces to give a different flavour to your ice cream. In adding these into the ice cream mixture, how does this change the time it takes for the change of state to occur?

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 26: engineer your own helicopter

    Helicopters are, when you think about it, pretty amazing; they fly on the movement of 2,3,4 or 5 thin blades only. They are also the only (civilian) aircraft that can hover, fly sideways or backwards. They are one of the symbols of being important too – pop stars, prime ministers, billionaires and emergency services use them a lot.

    Unfortunately for most of us, they are far too expensive to own – at least at the moment. The day may come when personal helicopters are as common as mobile phones, but until that time, we’ll have to dream of owning one.

    But we could make one...

    How to do it:

    The theory of how helicopters fly has been with us for millions of years. The sycamore tree ensures that it survives by distributing its seeds with helicopter-like seed pods. We are going to engineer something that works in exactly the same manner!

    You’ll need:

    A4 paper
    Scissors
    Paper clips
    A ruler

    Using the picture as a reference, first do some cutting and folding. The solid lines are to be cut down the whole length of the line. Dotted lines however are only to be folded.

    A full piece of A4 paper won’t work very well – it will be too wide. A piece half, or three quarters of the width of an A4 sheet will work much better.

    Once you’ve cut out a piece of paper, and cut that along the solid lines, it’s time to fold. Fold A towards you, and B away from you. These are the rotors.

    Fold C and D over each other so that they overlap. This will form the fuselage. Fold the bottom up so that a thick piece of paper is at the bottom and you can attach the paperclip.

    Aircraft ready for take off!

    Holding the helicopter by the paperclip, throw it as high as you can, as you would throw a tennis ball. It should gently, and under control, spin itself to the ground!

    Extension task:

    By folding up, and cutting to different sizes, what is the smallest width of rotor (sections A " B) that can stop your helicopter falling to the ground without spinning?

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 25: engineer a gearbox

    Where would we be without gears?

    Largely, we’d be at home, or very close to it. A world without gears would be a world mostly without cars, lifts (elevators), foods from abroad such as bananas and much more.

    Gears take one input and either magnify it, or reduce it; if one turn of a wheel doesn’t do enough, gears can make that movement much bigger, or they might take a big, unmanageable movement coming in, and reduce it to something manageable.

    Let’s look a bicycles (one of our favourite things, actually). Very keen cyclists often refer to a gear as being “52 inches”. Clearly, neither of the cogs that the pedals attach to, nor the cog in the middle of the back wheel is 52 inches, because 52 inches is 4 feet 4 – as big as a 6 year old, so what can they mean? Well, it refers to how much forward movement one turn of the crank (what the pedals attach to) will give you; pedal once round and you move 52 inches forward.

    Using gears, often many gears together, means that you can move something without being incredibly strong – they do the work for you. Some modern cars have 7 gears; the first gear will only get you to a maximum of maybe 75 miles per hour, but 7th gear will get you to 155 miles per hour – yet the engine puts out the same power in both gears. It’s pretty amazing.

    Here we are going to make a simple gear of two cogs.

    How to do it:

    The critical point to this is the gears must not be the same size! Deliberately make one bigger than the other!

    You’ll need:

    Corrugated cardboard
    Scissors
    Sellotape
    Cocktail sticks
    Ruler

    Get two round things, maybe a mug and a saucer and cut the cardboard around them so that you have two circles of different sizes. Next, cut 2.5cm wide strips of the cardboard that are as long as your cardboard. Leave some of the cardboard uncut as a base.

    Measuring your cardboard circles from one side to the other, halve the number that you measure and push a cocktail stick through at that point – this is the centre of your cog.

    Cut some small strips of sticky tape to have at the ready. Wrapping a strip of the cardboard around the outside of one of the circles that you cut out, cut it so that the two ends of the cardboard meet and then stick them together using the tape. REMEMBER, the tape will have to go into the corrugations...

    Do the same for the other circle and then stick the outside sleeves of corrugated cardboard to the circles – it’s probably best to stick on the inside of the sleeve in many places, to stop it slipping – the circle and its sleeve should now move as one thing on the cocktail stick that you are using as an axle.

    Place the first cog onto the cardboard base that you left and push the cocktail stick into the base. You’ve just started to make a gearbox!

    Getting the second cog, place it so that the corrugations of the second cog fit into those of the first. See the picture and you’ll get the idea!

    Push the cocktail stick on the second through to the cardboard base. Hey presto! A gearbox!

    Extension task:

    Can you make a working seven cog gearbox – like a modern high-performance car?

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 24: grow your own mung beans

    This experiment could be done with anything that can be grown, but for two reasons we chose mung beans; first, they germinate quite quickly –growing an oak tree would require the experiment to hold your attention for anything up to 400 years, potentially quite difficult. Secondly, growing mung beans gives you something to eat at the end of the experiment!

    Growing anything from seed is known, in the early stages, as germination. It’s the plant equivalent of a chick breaking out of its eggshell. Plants are pretty incredible at what they do – if you keep your eyes open you’ll find plants in all kinds of unexpected places – and nobody put them there to grow, the seeds will just have blown there, or been dropped by a bird or an animal.

    But we can take most of the chance out of this and give plants the best possibility of growing by providing them the best environment in which to grow. Doing this can speed up the growing process and also give each seed the best chance of growing.

    How to do it:

    This experiment is classic: it will have a control. That means that you’ll do two experiments at one time and compare one to the other – one will have what we know to be ideal conditions and the other will have less ideal conditions. From the results, you’ll be able to work out what factors influence growth.

    You’ll need:

    Mung beans
    Two jam jars or similar
    Kitchen roll
    A clear bowl
    Water

    First, rinse the beans until the water runs clear, you can do this in the bowl or, if you have one a colander. This cleans the beans of anything that could stop them germinating, or be unpleasant to eat.

    Put your beans in a clean, clear bowl. Add in cold water – enough to cover the beans so that they are completely submerged. Soak the beans for 6-12 hours – this may mean (especially in the summer weather) that you have to add more water to keep all of the beans submerged. The beans will swell in size.

    Drain the excess water and then rinse the beans with running cold water to get rid of anything that has become dislodged since they swelled. Get some of your kitchen roll, screw it up into a loose ball and place it into each of the jam jars and then dampen it. It should be damp, not sitting in water. You won’t need to put the lid on the jam jar (bowls, or even mugs could be used for this, too).

    Sprinkle some of the beans onto the kitchen roll, remembering to give them enough room to expand as they grow.

    Take one of the jam jars and put it onto a windowsill that gets direct sunlight. Place the other in a cool, dark place – the bottom of a cupboard would be ideal.

    You’ll have to go through a cycle of rinsing the beans, adding water to the kitchen roll and maybe replacing the kitchen roll every so often, so that it stays damp and clean. The process can take 2-5 days.

    When the beans have sprouted (or maybe one set have...) take notes which have germinated better and what size they have become in the time you’ve given them. You’ll be able to use this evidence to draw some conclusions about which conditions the beans like the most, and why! PS, the beans are now ready to eat!

    Extension task:

    Repeat the experiment with three jam jars. Put one jam jar in a cupboard that is dark, one in the fridge and one in the freezer. What are the differences in growth? If they are all dark, what factor is changing their growth rates?

    ...
  • STEMingBoredom 23: make a heart-shaped egg

    If someone said that the eggs that you had cooked them were rubbery, you probably be (quite rightly) offended. But did you know that you can make eggs behave like plastic without changing their taste?

    Plastics are divided into two types: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics. There’s a small but crucial difference; thermosetting plastics stay as they are once you heat them – they’ll always be that shape, but thermoplastics can be re-heated and re-shaped many times.

    We’re going to create a thermosetting egg!

    So imagine there’s someone special that you want to say a really thoughtful thank you to – perhaps a grown up, or a scientist or engineer. Breakfast in bed is always popular, what could be nicer? Heart shaped eggs perhaps?

    How to do it:

    This is a low-tech experiment to prove something quite advanced, but the low tech still requires care!

    You’ll need:

    An empty tetra pak carton
    An egg
    A pencil
    Two rubber bands
    A saucepan
    Water

    We’ll begin by boiling an egg. Do it for long enough to hard boil it – seven minutes should be sufficient. While the egg is boiling in the water carefully cut the top and bottom off the tetra pak carton. Then, cut down two of the creases so that you have two V shaped sections of pack.

    Once the egg is boiled, take it out and let it stand for a couple of minutes to cool a little.

    When it is cool enough to handle in kitchen roll, peel all the shell off the egg. Get one of the V shaped pieces of tetra pak and put the egg in it with the point of the V pointing downward. Take the pencil and press it firmly into the top of the egg (with the pencil running along the line of the V of the tetra pak). It should make a centimetre dent easily.

    One at a time, put the rubber bands around the ends of the pencil and tetra pak so that they keep the pencil pushed firmly into the egg. Now pop the egg in the fridge for an hour. (This is you thermosetting it!)

    When you take the egg out after the hour, you’ll have a heart shaped egg! You’ll be able to slice it into heart shaped pieces and make a salad to show someone how great you think they are!

    Extension task:

    Since you can thermoset an egg now, can you make a squared off egg, or a triangular egg?

    ...