Judge for a day

A post later than the event… I had the pleasure of being a judge for the 11th Rotary Technology Tournament. It was covered by the York Press here (with pictures, where the one in this post was taken from). Teams of kids from various schools competed in the day long event to use wood, string, glue, card and a variety of other basic materials to design and build a self-propelled trolley that could ascend a ramp. The trolleys had to use a 200g weight and gravity as their sole methods of propulsion, so pulley systems were the obvious means to accomplish this. I was stunned by the creativity of the children, and the range of designs they came up with. Some were very good at thinking outside of the box, the judges were asked a lot of questions on the edge of what was allowed and what was not (given the remit). In the end only 2 of the 8 teams in the senior category I was judging were able to move at all, but those that did were very impressive. Most of the designs were sound in principle, but reducing friction in the bearings and pulleys was absolutely essential else the weight could not propel the vehicle.

It was a fantastic day, and I really enjoyed myself – I think the competitors did too. It was nice to get some different perspective: my day job entails working at the cutting edge of a very specific simulation-based field, whereas this experience had me to interact with an age group I never really see and observe a nuts and bolts (well, staples and string) real-world engineering problem being solved in just a few hours. I would definitely do this again, and I recommend all academics get out their offices for this sort of event once in a while!