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Opening young minds the wonders of acoustics

Three members of staff recently visited Sunninghill Preparatory School in Dorchester, as part of the school’s Science Week.

The week is designed to introduce school children to all areas of science, make it an engaging subject and, for older students, help them to understand what career pathways are possible.

Our Measurement Specilaist and STEM ambassador, David Bell, Measurement Manager, Marina Bakaric and Systems Engineer, Timothy Tan spent the day with pupils from different year groups, introducing them to the wonder of acoustics and its applications in real life.

Practical demonstrations included a pyroelectric sensor, which turns heat into electricity for ultrasound to show how to measure sound. The lab experiment was a wonderful platform to explain how the sensor transfers heat to electricity and how this can be used to the group of Year 7 pupils.

There was also a discussion about high-intensity therapeutic ultrasound, the effects and dangers of the technology and how it is used in cancer therapy.

In another demonstration, pupils learned how a thermochromic tile uses heat and how this is used in commercial physiotherapy equipment (as well as children forehead thermometers).

Trombonist David showed Year 5 and 6 pupils the different ways to produce sound using wind instruments like a flute and a clarinet. He also ‘played’ a hosepipe using a trumpet mouthpiece and the group discussed the different sounds produced from different lengths of pipe.

In the playground, a group of pupils were able to demonstrate how sound is transferred with each student acting as a molecule in a chain.

“A STEM ambassador can inspire children to look at science,” says David. “We can explain why STEM subjects are fun, provide a good career path, and it is good to show applications of science in real life applications.”

Projects like this also support gender representation in school. “A key aspect is to encourage girls to study physics”.

Following the day at Sunninghill, Marina, has also applied to be a STEM ambassador, to continue the good work of introducing children of all ages to the opportunities presented by STEM subjects.

Commenting on the day and value for the pupils, Margaret Evans, Head of Science said:
“Students in years 5 to 8 at Sunninghill Prep school had a great day . . . . [learning] about sound and acoustics . . . how sounds are formed and travel and about ultrasound which linked to the practical activities the pupils experienced.

“Pupils were shown a focussed transducer which vapourised the water at the surface and [they] learned how devices like this could be used for cancer treatment.

“Pupils loved using the pyroelectric sensors which transferred heat to electrical energy. They really enjoyed getting hands-on with the equipment!

“It was also really interesting for the Key Stage Three pupils to have careers input – David, Marina and Tim’s route to their jobs; the education and training they needed, as well as the different roles there are within one company,” she said.