CoSEM CDT students showcase composites at the FUTURES Schools Research Fair
24 October 2023
CoSEM CDT students introduce school children to concepts of composite materials via a series of interactive demonstrations
On Friday 20 October 13 students from three different cohorts of the EPSRC CDT in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing (CoSEM CDT) were involved in preparing and hosting an exhibition stand at the FUTURES Festival Schools Research Fair, at the S.S. Great Britain, Bristol Harbourside for school pupils, aged 7-14 years.
Visitors to the stand were able to experience the superior properties of composite materials first hand. The pupils could interact with two pre-built bridges made of netting material, one of which had been strengthened with glue. They were also invited to experience how lightweight composites could be, by handling a section of WrapToR composite truss. The pupils were amazed at how light it was, with one exclaiming “it's almost weightless!”
After the initial explanation of what composites were and how they worked, the pupils were invited to guess whether everyday items, such as snowboards and planes, were produced with composite materials or not. The pupils largely guessed correctly but some were caught out by the trickier items, such as wood!
The activity that most captured the students’ imagination, however, was the ‘sword in the stone’ demo. Swathes of children attempted to break the sword free from its composite ‘stone’, but alas no one managed it (as intended by design!). Every child that visited the stand had a go at pulling on a handle which was attached to a small carbon fibre pultrusion. This allowed the children to truly experience the strength of composite materials; they were amazed and in disbelief that something so small could be so strong.
FUTURES Festival is a festival of discovery that celebrates the research and innovation taking place right across the South West of England, with over 300 researchers participating in a wide range of public events during September and October 2023. The Schools Research Fair at S.S. Great Britian was an interactive and busy school research fair where demonstrators delivered hands-on experiments, demos and simulations. Each activity was designed to engage pupils in novel ways and inspire them to consider becoming scientists and researchers in the future.
One CDT student said that the event was “Inspired and inspiring,” another said that it was “Fun and felt good to give back,” and another remarked that it was “A great experience, I was happy to see the kids so enthusiastic about composites”.
The CoSEM CDT (established in 2019) has evolved from the highly successful and established ACCIS CDT (2014-2024) to address exciting doctoral training opportunities for multidisciplinary composite materials engineering and manufacture.