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New society champions cutting-edge engineering

With this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix due to launch the new Formula 1 season, members of QE’s pupil-run Year 12 Engineering Society have been making front-page news with their own exploration of the hi-tech sport.

The Sixth Form engineers looked into how CFD (computational fluid dynamics) can be used to create a virtual wind tunnel for an F1 car design. And an article about their work penned by the society’s leaders, Nirmay Jadhav and Ansh Jaiswal, features prominently in the current edition of Futureminds, the magazine produced by CLEAPPS*, a national science and technology education advisory service. In the article, Nirmay and Ansh explain why they established the society, the activities they have already held and what they aim to do in the future.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “I congratulate Nirmay and Ansh. This is a good example of the student-led clubs and societies that are such a feature of life at QE. We find them an excellent way for boys to display initiative and develop skills such as teamwork, while providing enrichment for themselves and for their peers.”

The pair’s achievement was also praised by Head of Technology Michael Noonan: “It has been encouraging to see how they have applied their knowledge to solving real-world problems using new and emerging technologies.”

In the article, Ansh and Nirmay state that they launched the society with a threefold aim:

  • To educate members about the different engineering disciplines
  • To help those interested in applying for engineering courses at university
  • To pursue their own engineering interests and help others to do so, too.

One key meeting of the society looked at mechanical engineering, with members discussing why it is among the most popular fields in engineering. “To build upon this overview, we hope to incorporate some practical mechanical engineering with small challenges that can be worked upon weekly as a taster for the career of a mechanical engineer,” said Ansh.

In other sessions, members worked together to solve questions from Cambridge University’s Engineering Admissions Assessments (ENGAA). “This helped us get to grips with the principles and gave us all some preparation in advance,” Nirmay said.

But the undoubted highlights so far have been Computer-Aided Design (CAD) sessions, he said. “We went through the basics of how to design and develop models in 3D workspaces with Solidworks (our software of choice).” In the second week of these sessions, the society members focused on the simulations that can be carried out using Solidworks, including both the CFD simulation used to create the virtual wind tunnel and also FEA (Finite Element Analysis), which can be used to collect data about the performance of a 3D model. To explore FEA, the boys tested a load on a prism.

Ansh and Nirmay have plans to run further extra-curricular activities or competitions involving “the practical, hands-on aspects of engineering that we all enjoy”, while also boosting their skills and their appeal to employers and universities.

Besides Ansh and Nirmay, the society’s members are: Amudhu Anandarajah, Varun Vijay Kumar, Aiden Smith, Medushan Thevadaran and Alex Woodcock.

* CLEAPSS (Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services) is an advisory service providing support in science and technology to local councils and schools.

Keon wins international competition with out-of-this-world bulldozer design

Year 8 pupil Keon Robert has won an international 3D design challenge with his idea for a solar-powered bulldozer with special caterpillar tracks based on those used on Moon rovers.

Judges in the Polar Cloud CAT Inc. Design Challenge congratulated him for combining creativity with practicality in his design, and he also won appreciation from other users of American manufacturer Polar 3D’s Polar Cloud online 3D design platform.

To maximise his chances in the competition, which was sponsored by heavy plant manufacturer Caterpillar, Keon even produced an alternative design for the other type of caterpillar – the larval-stage insect – in its natural setting, as well as later producing a design based on snowflakes.

Keon’s victory in the heavy machinery category of the competition won a Polar Cloud-enabled Polar 3D printer and $100 for Queen Elizabeth’s School.

QE Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “Keon’s achievement is a truly remarkable one. He promoted and shared his idea widely, and his was an outstanding example of design and creativity. He received plaudits from Polar 3D’s CEO, Gregory Lalonde, and many others within the Polar Cloud platform, one which has over half a million members.”

Keon explained his thinking and the process by which he arrived at the bulldozer design.

“I decided to reimagine and reengineer your typical bulldozer by adding features which allow for greater accessibility to remote areas, as well as providing a greener alternative to the standard vehicles.

“Firstly, at the back, there is a retractable claw which is able to lift five tonnes. This was created as a feature to utilise when carrying more rubble or dirt. The treads for the vehicle are intended to be made out of wire mesh and rubber to ensure balance and protection, which is a necessity for users who require some means of transportation in more secluded regions.”

This combination of materials was, in fact, used by the vehicles taken on the Moon landing missions, and is, therefore, ideally suited to rocky environments, Keon explained in his design notes.

“Furthermore, photovoltaic cells were added in order to absorb the sun’s solar energy. This would then be converted to electrical energy to power the vehicle via a generator in the engine compartment. The engine compartment also includes lithium-ion batteries, as another energy source in the event of a breakdown.

“Finally, like any other bulldozer, there is another digger at the front, which can carry lift around 35 tonnes.”

Judges stipulated that entries should not only fulfil criteria such as printability, design execution and creativity, but also prioritised those, such as Keon’s, which garnered higher numbers of ‘likes’ on the online platform.

Keon entered the competition as a way of improving his CAD (Computer-Aided Design) skills and of engaging in the Polar Cloud platform – “essentially a workplace for engineers and designers to post and share their work…a STEM-oriented ‘Facebook’.

“I was frankly stunned when I found out I won the competition: the effort I had given it was extraordinary, so I felt it was definitely worth my time,” said Keon.

He added that he had surprised himself with the level of dedication he had brought to the competition, but feels that this will benefit him in the future, not least in terms of his schoolwork.

QE boys among top winners in competition to help astronauts survive their ‘lockdown’ journey to Mars

QE pupils, including both teams and individuals, have taken three of the top eight prizes in a summer competition to create a flight manual for astronauts travelling to Mars.

Lev Shafran, Achint Thakkar and Ye-Sung Baek, who are now in Year 12, collectively won the Best of Key Stage 4 Award in the second stage of the Galactic Challenge Journey to Mars Digital Competition, together with a teammate from another school.

The Science Award went to Medushan Thevadaran, also of Year 12, while the Illustration Award was won by Dylan Domb, pictured above, of Year 11. A further seven boys won gold awards, 15 took silver and six gained bronze.

Congratulating the winners, Head of Physics Jonathan Brooke said: “This was a popular competition among our boys, with 47 participants in 20 teams from Key Stage 3 through to Key Stage 5. It was an interesting challenge, requiring them to apply their skills in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] and to develop in areas such as teamwork, communication and leadership.

“There were also a few telling parallels between the challenges faced by astronauts confined to a spacecraft and those endured by the boys during lockdown.”

The competition to create the flight manual for a mission set in the year 2041 was the second stage of the competition – ‘Mission II’. QE boys also performed strongly in the first stage.

Chair of the Galactic Challenge Aadil Kara, who is also an Old Elizabethan (OE 2010–2017), explained that when Covid-19 forced the cancellation of in-person events, including one due to be held at QE, the organisation had instead launched the digital competition to allow participants to enter from home.

For the Mission II manuals, pupils were asked to propose ideas to help the astronauts stay physically and mentally healthy in isolation. They were also tasked with designing the overall configuration of the spacecraft and with suggesting experiments to be conducted during the nine-month journey.

After a rigorous anonymised judging process, the winners were announced. In their feedback, the Digital Competition Team praised the:

  • Use of floorplans by Key Stage 4 Award-winners Lev, Achint and Ye-Sung to show astronauts the location of facilities on their spacecraft, The Aion. with eight separate modules serving different purposes. “There was excellent consideration of backup resources, and the use of shifts amongst crew members was an interesting proposition.”
  • “Real scientific principles” underpinning the manual for Science Award-winner Medushan’s Genesis I “Medushan referenced physical phenomena in lots of areas, including fuel used in the propulsion system, osmosis used in the water reclaimer, and dietary modifications for the astronauts to mitigate against radiation exposure.”
  • “Impressive illustrations” from different elevations provided by the Illustration Award-winner, Dylan, for his Explorer Vessel Cyclops. “Dylan also used labelling and annotations throughout to bring the diagrams to life, explaining the purposes of all the components on the vehicle.”

Commenting afterwards from the Key Stage 4 Award-winning team, Lev said: “I am proud to have worked with such an outstanding team, and I would love to work with them again. I learnt both organising and entrepreneurial skills through the transitioning of a product into a specific format, and it has further inspired me to pursue my interest in astrophysics and aerospace engineering.” Achint said that not only was it a “rather interesting experience since it enabled me to research and predict the form that space travel might take 30 years into the future based on the technology which is growing right now and which might be useable sooner than people think” but it also required him to do some wider reading, which was good preparation for the A-level Physics he has now begun. Ye-Sung added: “I’m most proud of an element of the spacecraft that actually didn’t make it into the final submission, as we didn’t have time to put it in. It was a solenoid that would have blocked solar wind, ensuring the relative safety of those onboard.”

 

A winner again! Ashwin scores success for QE in global technology competition

Year 11 pupil Ashwin Sridhar has crowned a series of wins in competitions he entered during lockdown with outstanding international success in the prestigious Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior.

He was named among just three winners from across the vast EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) area after designing an artificial intelligence-powered device to help tackle the crisis in care for the elderly. Ashwin was one of only nine winners across the whole world and was the sole UK winner.

The same design also brought him success in another competition – the Connect the Community: Design Challenge – where it was named among the 10 winning entries in phase 1 of the challenge.

Congratulating him, QE’s Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “Ashwin is an outstanding Technology student who has had a tremendous year. Despite the challenges of the school closure, or perhaps even taking advantage of them, he threw himself into many competitions using his vast technological experience. He was successful in eight competitions on a local, national and, with his latest win, international level. He should be extremely proud of his achievements this year, and he undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him!”

Like the Imagine Cup, Microsoft’s sister competition for older students, Imagine Cup Junior provides those aged 13 to 18 with the opportunity to learn about technology and about how it can be used to positively change the world. In 2020, the competition was focused on artificial intelligence (AI), with participants challenged to come up with ideas to solve social, cultural and environmental issues.

Ashwin’s design, named AI RetroMate, is an all-in-one solution to help the elderly and carers with their everyday lives. An Internet-connected hub that dispenses, chats, and detects loneliness, AI RetroMate is controlled by a virtual caregiver and aims to support independence for elderly people who require care but want to stay at home.

Its features include:

  • A remote connection that uses cellular IOT (Internet of Things) technology to keep carers and patients connected reliably and securely, thus helping reduce the cost and strain of full-time care
  • A ‘chatbot’
  • A remote hub with a built-in a pill dispenser, incorporating facial recognition for additional safety
  • An attractive retro design.

After first researching online, Ashwin entered the cup competition, using AI to develop and prototype the device. As part of the project, he had to delve into advanced Mathematics to help enhance the prototype, using, for example, ‘nearest neighbour’ algorithms and linear regression models.

Ashwin developed his project late in lockdown, deploying CAD (Computer-aided Design) and electronics to create a prototype, using skills that he had learned in Design and Technology and in Physics.

Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, Tina Jones, Business Strategy Lead, Azure Skills and Employability, said: “The judges were thoroughly impressed by AI RetroMate, especially the research [Ashwin] had undertaken into the difficulties faced by the elderly and by carers and how to create something to improve the quality of their lives.

“We particularly liked how [he] added a chatbot following initial product feedback, and the video, and how [he] brought the product to life with [his] CAD drawing was incredible.  [Ashwin’s] concept, ethics and use of AI was thorough, well thought-through, and it was clear how much effort [he] had put into [his] project.”

Ashwin, who won a trophy as well as a prize of Microsoft’s Surface Go tablet computer and case, said: “This project has helped me to explore STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics], using and developing skills from class to help solve real-world problems.”

In the Connect the Community: Design Challenge (run by RS Components, Nordic Semiconductor and Cadent), having been chosen as one of the international winners of phase 1, Ashwin is now working towards a final prototype, in time for the second phase, where he could receive the funding to help to bring his product to life.

 

Multi-disciplinary magic helps QE to a top place in international competition

A Year 10 team’s hi-tech lockdown project was placed third in an international competition aimed at stemming the global tide of plastic pollution.

The Prata Neptunia team combined their skills in Technology, Mathematics and Chemistry and also produced a slick video presentation to promote their design for an autonomous hovercraft robot.

Competing against teams from more than 40 countries, Ashwin Sridhar, Anish Rana and Merwan Singh impressed judges from the British International Education Association with their use of artificial intelligence to tackle plastic waste in rivers and canals, reducing its harmful effects on flora and fauna.

A second QE Year 10 team, called Ocean, won the Best Effort prize in their category in the competition, which was launched in January.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “My heartfelt congratulations go to the boys, who began their projects when we were deep in lockdown and thus had to overcome some significant obstacles in putting their entry together. Although narrowly missing out on the grand prize, the team are proud to have had their project acknowledged on an international scale and to have learned countless new skills along the way.”

The BIEA International STEM Innovation Challenge invited young people from the age of nine to 21 to research, write a report and design a solution to Save our shores from plastic waste through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). In its brief, the BIEA pointed out that one lorryload of plastic is dumped every minute worldwide – the annual equivalent in weight of 40,000 blue whales or 1.6 million elephants. The competition drew entries from schools in countries including China, the United States, Argentina, Norway and Indonesia.

Ashwin took on the role of Project Manager and Lead Scientist for Prata Neptunia, while Merwan was Lead Researcher and Anish the Lead Robotics Designer.

By using hovercraft technology informed by artificial intelligence, the trio were able to devise a design that could travel across multiple terrains, both land and water, and target different types of plastic. These notably included microplastics, which have become a huge problem worldwide because of their devastating effects on marine life.

The team learned project-management skills in order to optimise their time effectively, from the use of Gantt charts to task delegation. They designed prototypes at home, building and testing parts, and investigating processes to remove microplastics in order to determine the feasibility of their design.

As part of the overall design process, they applied skills acquired in Technology lessons before finally designing their solution on CAD software.

Their work led to an invitation from BIEA to participate in the virtual international finals, where they were awarded their third place in the 15-17 category.

Anish said: “We started our journey back in March and were quite behind, compared to other teams, which started earlier. However, through thoughtful planning and hard work, we were able to pull together to create a product we were proud of in time for the due date.”

Unable to meet up freely or access all the resources of The Queen’s Library, the boys worked from home and used technology including Zoom calls to co-ordinate their work.

“We all saw plastic pollution as a big problem all over the world: the BIEA competition has targeted a global crisis that needs fixing.”

The competition gave him and his teammates the opportunity to deploy their skills and knowledge to tackle this crisis, which, he said, has shown him “how we can all work together to solve it”.

Anish added: “Of course, we had our ups and downs, but overall the competition was a great experience with a satisfying conclusion.”

The trio’s project required some fairly advanced Science, as they investigated methods of removing plastics, which led to their inclusion of PETase, an enzyme which catalyses the hydrolysis of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to monomeric mono-2-hydroxyethyl terephthalate (MHET). MHET is then broken down into Ethylene glycol and Terephthalic acid (Benzene-1,4-dicarboxylic acid) using the enzyme MHETase.  The team also delved into fluid dynamics – encompassing Mathematics and Physics – to optimise their design’s motion and efficiency.

The Ocean team, Jashwanth Parimi, Utkarsh Bhamidimarri and Siddarth Jana, also started their project relatively late and had only about a month to complete it.

Jashwanth said: “During multiple Zoom calls, we learned much more about plastic pollution and, eventually, we designed an idea that we thought was suitable for solving the problem. Then we each split into our specialised areas to fulfill the requirements of the project, but we still all helped each other in each of our project areas until we finally finished.”

The team designed a multi-terrain vehicle that used a net in order to collect macro-plastics on both the ocean and the mudflats. “Our project was innovative since we tried to consider all the wildlife on all the terrains, such as fish and snails, and so on.”

Doing the double! Sixth-Form engineers take two major construction industry awards

A Year 12 team won both the prestigious Innovation Award and the new People’s Choice Award at the SECBE Constructing Excellence Awards.

Competing against entries from leading professional construction firms, QE’s four-strong Engineering Education Scheme team were rewarded by the judges for the strength of their design project aimed at reducing the risk of injury from band saws.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations go to the team on what is a great success both for them and for the School. Their very impressive submission evinced not only innovative thinking and a sound understanding of engineering principles, but also meticulous implementation and very effective communication of their ideas.”

Thomas Mgbor, Hugh Westcott and Kai Sethna donned black tie to take part in the awards ceremony, together with Technology teacher Tony Green. (The fourth team member, Brandon Ionev, was unable to take part because of an examination.)

Mr Green said: ‘The boys deserve all of the plaudits that will come their way for an outstanding performance.” He thanked all in the Elizabethan community who supported the team in their bid to win the People’s Choice Award, which was decided by popular vote.

The team worked with office design specialists Morgan Lovell on the project, which involved a number of suggested improvements to band saw guards and dust extraction systems. Tweeting their “huge congratulations” to the QE four, Morgan Lovell said: “We’re really proud to be alongside the engineering minds of the future”.

During visits to construction sites, boys saw that workers would often not use the blade guard fitted to existing band saws, because it was time-consuming to reset the guard manually each time to adjust it for different thicknesses of material.

To address the issue, the boys conducted extensive research over six months. They came up with three designs, all based on the same concept. The material pushes against the bottom of the blade guard, causing a force that pushes upwards and adjusts the blade guard automatically to the correct and ideal height for cutting. With no user input needed, saw operators could then work in the same way as before, but much more safely.

An additional benefit of the designs was that they incorporated significant improvements to the existing dust extraction systems of saws, thus reducing dust exposure – another health & safety concern – and allowing a more precise cut to be made because of the enhanced visibility of the cutting service.

The designs would work with different types of saw and, unlike existing guards, they covered the blade from multiple angles, which is another safety improvement. Because they could be retrofitted to existing machines, the guards hold out the promise of improving safety without huge expenditure. The boys were assisted by their industry mentor, representing Morgan Lovell, Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager Alex Wood.

Team leader Thomas opened the team’s presentation to the judges at the virtual awards ceremony, before Hugh and Kai went through it in more detail. They faced some tough questioning from the judging panel, which comprised Chris Blythe (Chairman of SECBE, a construction industry not-for-profit company working towards positive change in the sector), Bill Ferris OBE (Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust), James Wright (Framework Manager for Southern Construction Framework) and Julie Barry (Head of Business Development for RIFT R&D).

“Later in the day, we pushed for the People’s Choice Award on social media and won that award, too!” said Thomas. “It was a really enjoyable day to showcase our young talent and ‘show up’ some of the professional construction firms. In the words of SECBE, we were ‘recognised as the best’, and hope to inspire the rest.”

Mars: creating a space to work, rest and play – in only one day

Four QE boys were part of a team of 50 set the daunting task of designing a settlement for 10,000 people in just a single day after reaching the national finals of the UK Space Design Competition.

After coming up with their detailed design, they then presented to a panel of judges, who included an Old Elizabethan, himself a former competitor in the same competition.

Prior to lockdown, the four Year 10 pupils were accompanied to the final at Imperial College by Head of Physics Jonathan Brooke. “The boys did very well to reach the finals, and although they were not on the winning team, it was, nevertheless, a great experience for them. The competition demands a high level of design and technical skill, imagination and teamwork, alongside the ability to present well. All the boys contributed and worked very well.”

Utkarsh Bhamidimarri, Amogh Bhartia, Siddarth Jana and Jashwanth Parimi, of Year 10, formed part of the Vulture Company, who came up with an ambitious plan for a settlement positioned in low Martian orbit.

Their contribution was evaluated by a panel of judges, who included experts in the field and representatives of the UK Space Agency. Also among the judges was Neelesh Ravichandran (OE 2010-17), who is reading Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Imperial College. He took part in the Space Design competition as a Year 13 pupil at QE. He said: “The UK Space Design Competition dares students to dream bigger than they’ve ever done before. Working together with schools from across the country, competitors are challenged with designing space settlements set in the far future. ”

Part of the aim of the Space Settlement Design Competition is to offer young people optimism for the future whilst increasing their technical competence, management skills, knowledge of space environments and resources, appreciation of relationships between technical products and human use, teamwork, and techniques for preparing effective documentation.

It requires them to integrate their knowledge of and utilise skills in space science, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, environmental science, Biology, computer science, writing, speaking and Art, and to combine all that with common sense.

The teams were presented with a Request for Proposal, which outlined the technical requirements of the venture, which was set in the year 2065. The challenge was to design facilities for a station serving as a gateway to Mars’s “flourishing surface settlements”. Its purpose would be to serve as a stepping-stone to Olympia – a planned future city on Mars.

To help them accomplish this task, each team was provided with managers from industry, past competitors, or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) university students to serve as company CEOs. The participants then received technical and management training to prepare them for the competition. In addition to designing an overall structure, the teams had to define sources of construction materials, specify vehicles used for transportation, determine sources of electrical power and water, design computer and robotics systems, specify allocation of interior space, show attributes of pleasant community design, and provide estimated costs and schedules for completion of the project.

Stay safe! Sixth-formers rise to the occasion in engineering H&S challenges

Two Sixth Form teams devised innovative engineering solutions to workplace safety challenges and successfully presented them to the world’s largest health & safety organisation.

The presentations were part of this year’s QE submissions under the Engineering Excellence Scheme (EES). The Year 12 boys are hoping to follow in the illustrious footsteps of other QE EES teams of recent years whose inventions under the Engineering Project Challenges initiative have achieved regional and national success.

They gave their presentations to members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH, a UK-based global chartered body for health & safety professionals), just before the COVID-19 social distancing measures were put in place The venue was UBM’s centre close to Blackfriars Bridge in London.

QE’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, said: “The teams had been set engineering challenges to work on by two major office fit-out companies, Morgan Lovell and Overbury. QE has achieved brilliant things in recent years in this initiative, and this year’s boys did not disappoint: after six months’ work, they came up with carefully thought-through solutions based on sound engineering principles. They then presented these ideas fluently and with some confidence to the assembled IOSH members and other guests.”

The Engineering Project Challenges started off with a project tour and introduction to site conditions and equipment by industry sponsors Overbury and Morgan Lovell, both part of the Morgan Sindall construction group.

After seeing demonstrations of equipment and operatives at work, the boys were charged with finding innovative solutions to two specific problems.

The Overbury team had the challenge of creating an easy-to-use, hand-held, non-intrusive tool to check if an electrical steel wired armoured cable is live. The team members are: Enoch Hitchcock, Yai Sagolsem, Pranay Surana and Ukendar Vadivel.

The Morgan Lovell team were tasked with making health & safety improvements to a portable band saw, including blade protection and extraction of dust, to ensure that users could cut material both safely and quickly. The blade protection had to be designed in such a way that it could be retrofitted to existing machines. The team comprises: Brandon Ionev, Thomas Mgbor, Kai Sethna and Hugh Westcott.

Both teams were required to undertake analysis through extensive research to find the best practical and innovative engineering methods, and to solve these challenges without involving excess manufacturing costs. They were assisted by their industry mentor, representing Overbury and Morgan Lovell, Health Safety & Wellbeing Manager Alex Wood.

In their 15-minute presentation, team leader Ukendar and his fellow team members working on the project with Overbury explained their solution – a device featuring a hinged clamp and a handle with red and green LEDs to indicate whether the cable being worked on was live or not. In a question-and-answer session with members, they confirmed that the device could readily be manufactured to accommodate different sizes of steel wired armoured cable.

The Morgan Lovell team explained that their guard could be easily and quickly fitted to a band saw in a busy workplace environment. Questioned as to why they had made it in opaque materials, they confirmed that this was just for the prototype and that production models could be made in transparent ABS plastic.

Overall, the objective of the challenges is to introduce young people to careers in the construction and building fit-out and office fit-out industries and to help them apply what they have learnt about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the classroom into the real world.

The two teams will be hoping to emulate the successes of predecessors, including a 2018 QE team who devised a stair-climbing robot for transporting large sheets of material up staircases on construction sites. This was Highly Commended in the Contribution to the Business Award at the Celebration and Assessment Day of the Engineering Excellence Scheme (EES). And in the year before that, a QE project for the EES – a helmet which warned construction workers when workplace noise was exceeding safe levels – was among the national engineering prize-winners at The Big Bang, the UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair.

 

Race against time: watch as QE’s Head of Technology gears up production of face shields for the NHS ahead of predicted Bank Holiday weekend virus spike

In a video filmed for The Times newspaper, QE’s Head of Technology Michael Noonan explains how he is leading urgent work to 3D-print face shields ahead of a predicted UK peak to the COVID-19 virus in the next few days.

Mr Noonan is spearheading a London-wide effort to 3D-print the Personal Protective Equipment.

And with QE’s own machines running around the clock and several pupils following suit on their home 3D printers, hundreds of face shields are currently being despatched from the School.

“We have material, we have manufacturing facilities, we have knowledge and skill and we have the ability to create sanitary environments, so we are putting our skill and all of our facilities into solving [the PPE shortage] problem right now,” Mr Noonan told the team from The Times when they visited to film him at work (while maintaining safe social distancing).

“And there are makers and engineers, designers, consultants and DT departments all over the country that have answered this call and that have pitched themselves into volunteering to help with this effort.”

The video explains how the face shields can be put together from two 3D-printed frame parts, combined with a transparent plastic shield and an elastic strap, or even a rubber band.

  • Click here for more information on how Mr Noonan and the pupils got involved and on how the face shields are being distributed locally.
  • Click here to support the fundraiser by 3DCrowd UK.
Ace coder James makes QE history

Sixth-former James Tan is believed to be the first QE boy ever to reach the final of the country’s premier coding competition.

James, of Year 12, made it through to the 2020 final of the British Informatics Olympiad after scoring highly in the first round of the annual competition, which was a three-hour examination sat in school.

The residential final had been due to take place at Cambridge University’s Trinity College, but was switched to an online event because of the Covid-19 restrictions. The results have not yet been announced.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “My congratulations to James on making QE history by getting through to the final. It is not only in this competition that he is making his mark with his programming skills: he is also the programmer for our highly successful HYBRID VEX EDR robotics team and is teaching coding to primary school children as part of our Year 12 volunteering programme.”

James first developed his interest in coding by building websites in his spare time. He then learned the Python language, which, he says “opened up a whole new realm of possibilities”. He has taken part in a number of programming competitions, including the online Google Code Jam.

“I enjoy the puzzle-like aspect of coding, where each small section of code fits together to solve a much large problem. There is also a great sense of satisfaction when I find a particularly elegant solution, especially after spending a significant period of time on a programming project.”

James’s weekly volunteering work involves teaching Scratch (a block-based programming language) to primary school children in Years 3 and 4.

He found the first stage of the British Informatics Olympiad challenging but enjoyable, and professed himself very pleased with his score of 79 out of 100. “My preparation mostly consisted of trying to solve past questions in my spare time, which proved to be sufficient, given my prior experience with competitive programming in online contests.”

In the five-hour online final, contestants had to tackle four problems, based around scenarios involving settings such as a training ground for spies and a film studio. Each problem required a complete program as a solution. “In the end, I managed to solve two of the four, which I am quite pleased with,” said James.

In previous years, following the national final, the best four competitors were selected to represent Britain in the International Olympiad in Informatics (IOI).

This year, however, the IOI has also been postponed, so the British Informatics Olympiad organisers are planning to run some further selection activity over the coming months, the details of which have not yet been disclosed.