In July, Talent 2030 winners and runners up from the 2016/17 National Engineering Competition for Girls visited the Rolls-Royce Aerospace Centre in Derby to speak to engineers and tour the grounds.
The group of 25 girls were immediately tasked with a design challenge; to build a model that would prevent a small chocolate egg from breaking when dropped from a 2 metre height. In small groups, with only 30 minutes to design and build prototypes, the girls worked together to tackle potential design issues such as air drag and impact. Each team had a budget of £5 to spend on materials such as balloons, string, cotton wool and sandwich bags to construct the models. The last frantic few minutes of the challenge were filled with the sounds of tape being pulled, balloons being blown up and whispers to perform confidential last minute changes.
The atmosphere was tense as each group eagerly awaited testing of their designs. Impressively, all eggs survived intact. The whole group evaluated the best design elements of each model, concluding a large parachute surface area was vital for a safe landing. It was a brilliant exercise to demonstrate the conception, prototype and evaluation processes of innovative engineering.
The tour of the Rolls-Royce exhibit showed the history of the company and engine designs to the present day. Fascinated by the engines on display, the girls were able to understand how the mechanics within an engine operate. It was interesting to see the development of engines during the wars which were used in blimps, seaplanes, aeroplanes, and cars.
Finally, armed with safety boots and goggles, the group toured the facility where the engines from Rolls-Royce’s global customers are taken to be repaired. The repair process was broken down and the stages explained as the groups walked around the factory. Throughout the tour, engineers were cleaning, removing and attaching parts, painting, discussing and writing reports; it was a bustling workspace. One small engine had been sent in for repair from Colombia, another large engine was covered up ready to be shipped to Heathrow Airport that evening. Engineers explained how vehemently the engines are tested to ensure they are fit for purpose, including the use of a special launching gun which propels frozen chickens into a turning engine to ensure it can withstand a flock of birds mid-flight!
The engineers and staff at Rolls-Royce shared their career stories; some completing level two or three apprenticeships after leaving school, while others entered though graduate schemes following university. All were very encouraging of the group and were keen to share their enthusiasm for working at Rolls-Royce and for the opportunities it provides.
A thoroughly interesting day out, and a wonderful way to close the 2016/17 competition. The Talent 2030 National Engineering Competition for Girls reopens in September 2017 so keep a look out, more details to follow.
By Shakira Malkani
National Centre Project Assistant