Welding with Chocolate - SMEA Schools Activity

Sheffield Metallurgical and Engineering Association
9 Oct 2017
Getting Up To Speed - Magna 2017

SMEA has recently been helping to promote materials science and engineering to school children in and around Sheffield. We have been supporting Dr Diane Aston, who is Education Manager at IOM3, at a number of events and have a programme of activities into 2018. Diane is an engaging and enthusiastic promoter of materials who has a large box of materials objects and components that she regularly uses at presentations and visits to schools to explain the importance of materials in everyday objects and also in high technology applications.

In March 2017 we attended Engineering Extravaganza at AMRC where selected children from schools in the area came to the Knowledge Transfer Centre at AMRC to engage in a number of interactive activities put on by IOM3, IMechE, AET,ICE, AMRC and TWI Sheffield. Several of the institution representatives where from companies, eg Rolls Royce, that enable their engineers to promote their profession. The IOM3 session involved Diane using her “box of tricks” and getting the children to think about how objects are made. This event is linked into STEM activities in this area and is going from strength to strength and is to be extended into other areas of the region.

Also in March, SMEA linked up with TWI to put on a day event at Eckington School called Welding with Chocolate. This interactive project has been developed by TWI and involves welding Milky Bars into a box girder section and testing them to destruction. The heat source is an empty wine bottle filled with hot water and by rubbing the chocolate bars against the bottle the children were able to produce a fusion zone and stick Milky Bars together. It was necessary for the presenters to exert some careful temperature control of the feedstock, and of the welded box girder, using a fridge as it was surprising how a rising room temperature could influence the performance of the chocolate. The finished sections were then tested by applying weights and surprisingly supported up to 12kg. Children were persuaded not to eat the chocolate by being told that younger children had previously had their grubby hands on the chocolate!  Steve Webster was the main organiser and link with TWI, helped by Peter Morgan and Kathryn Jackson of NAMRC.

April 2017 saw us at the Get Up To Speed event at Magna helping Diane with a stand that displayed components and the raw materials from which they are produced. This large event saw big numbers of school children from most of the local schools look around displays put on by local companies, professional institutions, and education and training companies.
Future plans are for two more Engineering Extravaganzas in November 2017 and March 2018, Get Up to Speed in 2018 and individual visits to selected schools as opportunities arise.

We have recently had a meeting with Dr Russell Goodall at the University of Sheffield to investigate linked opportunities and involve materials students with some of the schools activities. Coleen Mann, a PhD student who won the IOM3 local lecture competition, is also helping with ideas.

It can be difficult getting access to schools and the best method is via a personal contact. If any SMEA members have a good school contact or are school governors, then we would be open to suggestions. The small SMEA group progressing these activities is Peter Morgan, Peter Morris and Steve Webster.