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How to build a jet engine from junk

Education News
Monday, 6 April, 2015

How BLOODHOUND Ambassadors from Rolls-Royce inspire primary school children

By Grant Gibson, materials technologist at Rolls-Royce and BLOODHOUND Ambassador

One Friday last December a team from Rolls-Royce delivered a suite of interactive STEM activities for the pupils of St Alban’s Catholic Primary School in Chaddesden, Derby.

The day started with an assembly about aerodynamics, with the classic question “What does the part of the word ‘aero’ mean? I’ll give you a clue – it isn’t just a chocolate bar!”

Jet engines and airzookas

This led into an interactive ‘jet engine from junk’ demonstration. In these demonstrations ‘suck’ is represented by a household hoover while ‘squeeze’ is represented and demonstrated by a bike pump and wheel. ‘Blow’ is represented by a small leaf blower which an ambassador blasts in his face, much to the amusement of the pupils and other ambassadors.

‘Bang’ is the best bit, consisting of a used coffee tin, an aerosol and a barbeque lighter. (Recently, we have been upping the excitement by swapping deodorant for hairspray, which really makes a good BANG!)

The assembly then moved on to show children how an ‘airzooka’ works, explained how the children can build a small one themselves and culminated in firing giant smoke rings across the school hall.

Hands-on car building

Once the assembly was over the children were split into combined year groups: Years 1 and 2 were together, then 3 with 4, and 5 with 6.

The younger pupils experienced a mixture of water rockets, K’NEX rocket cars and BLOODHOUND balloon cars, while the Year 5 and 6 pupils spent all day designing and manufacturing elastic band powered cars.

Water rockets, K’NEX and balloon cars

Water rocket launching session 1 was temporarily halted when a bike pump split in half covering ambassador Stuart in grease! Other than a few near misses with the school roof the children loved it, especially when the ambassadors got soaked. Cold water plus a winter’s day makes a ‘nice’ combination.

K’NEX rocket cars always go down well and, judging by the deafening shouts that could be heard from outside the school building, the pupils really enjoyed this activity.

For the youngest students, building balloon cars sometimes descends into a fight over which colour balloon they want or who could steal someone else’s axles, but all things considered they did an excellent job and enjoyed racing them.

Elastic band powered cars

The most complex activity of the day involved designing and building elastic band powered cars from wood. The activity was designed to introduce Year 6 pupils to a slightly higher level of project than they might expect and one that is particularly pertinent as they will be moving on to secondary school in a few months.

There was mixed success with this one; no matter how many times you tell them to put the axles on straight and parallel, some always manage to make their car go in a circle!

Find out more

Overall nearly 300 pupils took part in the day with fantastic feedback received from members of staff and the pupils themselves.

If you would like more information on making elastic band cars or any other activity please get in touch with grant.gibson@rolls-royce.com  who will do his best to help.