Lottie's Visit to Loughborough University

Submitted by Sophie Hutchins on 4 Nov 2018 - 18:05

For the tomorrow's engineers week this year the Women's Engineering Society at Loughborough University wanted to showcase the extraordinary diversity within engineering. Really highlighting the fact that engineering is for everyone whilst capturing the imagination of the next generation with the Lottie Doll. The chair of WES and a PhD student in the aeronautical engineering department, Jennifer Glover, took Lottie on a fun filled week of adventures to each of the different engineering schools. For full details of the tour please see Twitter @LboroEng or @JGlover00.

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Day 1 saw Lottie enter the Aeronautical and Automotive Department starting with the morning exploring the formula student racing cars and a full hydraulic platform simulator. The simulator feels and runs like a real car and is used for research into breaking and clutch models. In the afternoon Lottie was invited to the autonomy lab. There research looks at both ground and air vehicles which are used for data collection and to identify hazards in dangerous environments. Lottie even was given the chance to fly an octocopter. After that Lottie joined Jennifer in an experiment related to her research in aero acoustics, understanding different forms of noise cancellation. Lottie was tasked with collecting data on the noise that transferred from one side of the screen to another. Lottie tired out 4 different types of noise cancellation techniques using vent covers an acoustic foam. Lottie was able to successfully carry out an experiment inside the anechoic chamber and use computer software to plot her results.

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Day 2 Lottie went to the Architecture Building and Civil Engineering Department where she had great fun in finding out how concrete is made and tested. This was a very different work environment to the one she had been in yesterday in the autonomy lab’s. There was certainly no clean room spaces in concrete production. Lottie was shown the whole process from the sand to the final bar of concrete.  She then carried out compression and tension loading to see when and where cracks developed. She was also able to see the cutting-edge of technology with 3D printed concrete. In the afternoon Lottie was explored some of the lesser-known aspects of civil engineering namely flood prevention finding out about experiments using plant materials to control flooding. She was able to watch small scale water flume tests with different types of control barriers.

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Day 3 Lottie was invited to the Department of Materials where she spent the morning in the plastic manufacturing labs. She had great fun in making a plastic frisbee through an injection moulding machine. In addition, she was able to make a plastic yoghurt pot through the vacuum moulding technique. Here Lottie had to show perseverance and problem solving taking several attempts to make the perfect pot. Lottie learned how so many different household objects are made of plastic, and how the job you need the plastic to do effects how it’s made. For example, frisbees need to be really strong because they are being thrown about, therefore injection moulding is best for them.  In the afternoon Lottie went to the STEM lab laboratory finding out about material structures and properties and how material are tested for these properties. She was able to look at the microscopic structure of iron. Then Lottie carried out tension, impact and bounce tests. Iron is considered very strong and hard so should be resilient to high loads and impacts, but it doesn’t bounce very well.

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Day 4 started with Lottie contemplating if there was any engineering involved in her morning cup of orange juice. Luckily for Lottie she spent the day in the chemical engineering department where she found out all about the large-scale food production that chemical engineers carry out. She learned how they can make liquids very concentrated and dehydrated. For example, orange juice goes through double effect evaporation to make it a concentrate. She also learnt the importance of control engineering for all engineers, but particularly in a factory setting. She took part in a demonstration of water tank control to make sure that the bottom tank never ran dry. If a water tank especially if it was used for heating ran out of water it could overheat element of the tank and break; therefore it is very important to make sure you control the water in the tank. In the afternoon Lottie got to take part in a very exciting experiment, she was able to make sugar pills in the same way that you’d make tablet medicine. Learning how a machine squashes a chemical mix together to make a tablet and how you test them. Lottie tested the pills to find out how quickly tablets dissolve and how well they will travel. Both are important factors in a good tablet you want it to work well in the tummy and you don’t want to break before it actually gets home.

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Day 5 was Lottie’s final day and she visited Wolfson school which houses mechanical, manufacturing and electrical engineering. In the morning Lottie was tasked with constructing a MEMEbot. Lottie learned how the robots were manufactured using 3D printing; how the moving parts such as the wheels were controlled from a central raspberry pi motherboard, and even had a go at wiring it up. In the afternoon Lottie helped with an experiment to find out how effective solar panels were at absorbing light. Lottie then took this interest in solar panels and went to a local primary school. Lottie helped the children make their own solar powered cars with help from Jennifer and WES volunteers of course.

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Jennifer and Lottie have put together a presentation for use in primary schools for each day of the Lottie Tour highlighting a different aspect of engineering. The presentations include story boards of Lottie’s journey, videos, engineering facts and in class experiments. The experiments align with the engineering and can very cheaply be put on. If you would like access to this teaching resource, please contact Jennifer Glover at J.Glover2@lboro.ac.uk.