Four teams of mathematicians from Queen Mary’s College competed in the annual Rotary Technology Tournament at BCOT on Thursday 15th March, coming away with the top prizes in the Advanced Class for 16-19s. Their challenge this year was to design and build a space capsule launcher which would fire its cargo vertically and parachute it safety back to earth. Sixteen aspiring engineers took part, with QMC Teams once again winning both the Best Design and Best Portfolio categories. The event is organised and judged by professional engineers from Basingstoke Rotary Club, who were hugely impressed with the quality of entries and keen to encourage these young designers to pursue their chosen path and maintain Britain’s enviable reputation in science and technology.
The annual competition is a great test of teamwork and ingenuity. Students arrive in the morning with no idea what challenge awaits. They are given a briefing document and some basic building materials, with a four-hour deadline to produce a working model. They must compile a project report, outlining their initial ideas and the developmental process by which they select and refine their chosen solution to arrive at a final design. All four QMC teams managed to produce a working model in time for flight testing in the early afternoon. The winning effort launched successfully, rising vertically to a height of over 3 metres, before the parachute was deployed and the capsule landed gently back on terra firma close to the launch site, as specified in the initial brief. The winning team consisted of two second year A level students, Tom Newnham and Troy Loxley, and two first years, Jeli Ryder and Jay Hill. Judges also awarded them the Portfolio prize, citing their careful calculations as the key feature that set them apart from the competition, incorporating the modulus of elasticity to estimate the height their vehicle would attain.
Tom and Troy are both previous winners of the competition, having represented both the Hurst Community College and Queen Mary’s College in earlier tournaments. Tom, who is applying to study Chemical Engineering at university, was enthusiastic about the experience. “We had fun working together as a team,” he told organisers. “It gave us different ideas of how to think about problems.” “We had to think about the stresses in structures”, added Troy, who hopes to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering in the autumn. “We needed to make really precise calculations to know it would launch OK”. The winning team was presented with certificates and impressive trophies by the Mayor of Basingstoke. A truly inspiring day was had by all of the participants, with thanks to the Rotary Club for organising the event, which gives students a real experience of the challenge and excitement of practical problem-solving that will surely help launch these young engineers on a rewarding career for which even the sky is not the limit!