Energy Quest in the South West

The latest event in the South Devon & Torbay Partnership's termly activity programme took place recently at St Cuthbert Mayne School (STCM) in Torquay. Fifty Year 9 & 10 students from four of the partnership schools (Kingsbridge Community College, Ivybridge Community College, St Cuthbert Mayne & Brixham Academy) took part in a twilight workshop delivered by a team from Tomorrow's Engineers who also worked with STCM's Year 8 and 9 classes earlier in the day.


After an interactive introduction to the topic and the issues surrounding providing energy for a growing global population, the students worked in small teams on a number of practical engineering challenges, which came thick and fast throughout the evening. They were supported by three engineers with varied backgrounds in medical, light and defence engineering.

Following the theme of how engineering helps solve the world's problems, teams were first asked to come up with ideas to make someone's life better, just using an old CD and a plastic bag...  Although it seemed like just a bit of fun, some creative solutions for re-using and recycling these items emerged.

They quickly moved on to a bigger challenge – designing a wind turbine to generate the most electricity by altering the shape and angle of the blades. Testing with a hairdryer was well underway and excellent results were being produced when a second challenge came in! Teams had to multi-task to build an electric car and use 'adaptive aerodynamics' (a sheet of paper) to streamline it most effectively.  

The workshop finished with a race of the electric cars, in which some teams were more successful than others...  Everyone got a lot out of the evening though and there was an excited buzz in the hall throughout. Students enjoyed discovering a bit more about what it is really like to work as an engineer, the fast-paced problem-solving that is involved and the potential to help others through the application of physics knowledge to real-life problems.

“The students really enjoyed the hands-on activities,” said Mr Charles Moore, Head of Science at the school and organiser of the event. “They liked thinking about what it meant to study physics and possibly go on to become an engineer. Students enjoyed designing wind turbines and then racing their own hand-built solar powered cars, while learning about the energy challenges facing an ever-growing global population."

"I really enjoyed the evening, it was lots of fun - it was the best Ogden event I've been to so far. I loved racing the cars and was really pleased with our wind turbine, which generated the most electricity out of all the schools." 

The partnership schools all received an Energy Resource Pack that accompanies the workshop and contains lots of ideas for further projects and enrichment activities.