Thursday, 26 May 2016

Third Day (26 May, Thursday)

From the project sharing sessions, I have been given a deeper insight on each project even though I have not attended all of them. One interesting concept I learnt was that of the different scientific terms. An example would be during the sharing session of Project 6: Building a Flying Machine, they mentioned terms such as "drag", "weight" and "yaw" with meant the opposite of the direction of movement, the pull of gravity and the twisting or oscillation of a moving craft about a vertical axis. These are all valuable pieces of knowledge. Another example would be from Project 4: Water Tower Challenge. Other than sharing their project, they also shared how the water tower should be built in order to support more weight. This is namely putting the supporting sticks under the base and strategically placing the support sticks of the tower such as directly under the base as an extra support as that would prevent the base on top from bending too much. In the sharing session of Project 5: Obstacle Course Challenge Using Mobile Robot, they shared the process of how they programmed the robot. Firstly they had to learn the basics then slowly build up the knowledge and apply it to the challenge. They also had to look out for coding errors that were quite predominant in this area. Such an approach can actually also be applied to our everyday activities. When we start exploring something new, we must always first build up our foundation then slowly take in everything around us and build upon our castle of knowledge. During this process, we also need to point out any of our mistakes so that they will not be repeated in the future.

I feel that this NTU-SST flagship programme has given me a deeper understanding on engineering and physics. Relating first back to my own project, I have learnt much about the mechanics of the steam engine. Previously I had limited knowledge on this topic yet now I understand that because of the steam has a much higher density than water, hence, it pushes the water in the tubes outwards. The movement then causes a thrust, pushing the boat forward. When the steam condenses on the cool metal surfaces, the pressure reduces, pulling water back in. As such, the process repeats over and over again.

Overall, I feel that the sharing session was a great opportunity for students to share what they have learnt. Furthermore, we were required to use our own materials (photos and videos) as far as possible to illustrate our project. Through the presentations and sharing sessions, even those only to their peers, we as students were able to express our learning process and how we have interpreted  the projects. The various student mentors and professors were also key in assisting us during our experimentation and provided us with valuable knowledge and insights on the various projects. All of them put in tremendous effort to help and support us granted their tight and busy schedules. Thank you to all of them! Lastly, I feel that the sharing sessions not only benefitted oneself in strengthening our knowledge on our own various scientific or design concepts, but also allowed the audience comprising of both teachers and students to hear about their individual projects. This allowed all of us to gain new knowledge making it a meaningful session indeed.

Some images from the sharing sessions:

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Second Day (25 May, Wednesday)

Today, we started off the day by beginning to edit the slides. This was because we were slightly early and took the extra time to start preparing for our presentations for tomorrow. At 9 o'clock, we then proceeded to start our day's activities. Today, we had the chance to try out the last project on Battery charging from Bicycle Pedal Power. In this project, we learnt how the spinning of the wheel would spin the dynamo, changing it into electrical energy, allowing the light bulb to light up/battery to be charged. We used the voltmeter to measure the volts/energy generator, and the Tachometer was used to measure the rotations by the bike wheel. After trying it out through charging the light bulb and battery, the student mentor taught us how to plot a linear graph using the results. Half of us worked on sketching a simple graph while the other half worked on a doorbell that worked via an electromagnet. When we were done trying out the project, we went back to getting ready for the presentation. Some of the group members also tried re-doing the boat for the presentation. Later on, all of us were released for lunch. After lunch, we continued doing up our slides in a meeting room the Professor had brought us to. When we were done editing the slides and writing our scripts, we then presented and received comments and feedback from the professors and Mrs Ong.

Images of today's activities:

On the left is a picture of two group members, Grace and Ping Yi, turning the pedals of the bike to generate electricity.

Here is an image of the light bulb lighting up after receiving the electricity generated.

The following two images show all the groups working on their presentations.

Today, I learnt how power can be generated from pedalling a bicycle. Power is generated mainly from using the bike wheel that is being rotated due to the pedal that is connected to the dynamo. This dynamo then converts the energy into electrical energy, hence charging up the battery/lighting up the bulb. Such a technology does not require burning and releasing of harmful gases though it does not produce/generate as much electricity as that of fossil fuels. Also, after hearing the comments from the professors, I have learnt that when presenting, we should focus on one idea and expand on it while being careful not to be repetitive.

I feel that today's activities such as the electricity generation (bicycle project) has deepened my understanding of how such technology can be used to power up electrical devices. Hence, I am able to understand the physics of how this occurs, especially since there are quite a few movies on this concept of electricity being generated via bikes. The presentation rehearsal and the comments from the professors showed me how we must arrange our information. Such knowledge can also be implemented into future presentations. Today's activities gave me a more insightful view on how physics works and the generation of electricity. Furthermore, they also explained how an electromagnet works and practical applications of it. For our presentation, we researched on practical applications as well, giving me a wider view of technology today.

New questions regarding the discipline:

  1. How can a steam engine be constructed to be more efficient?
  2. What materials are more durable/strong to make a boiler for the Pop-pop boat?
  3. How can a steam engine be made to use lesser resources? (i.e. conservation of heat)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

First Day (24 May, Tuesday)

Today, we tried two different projects. My group's project which is the Steam engine of a Pop-pop (Putt-putt) boat and another project which is the Automatic Sorting Machine. Once we arrived in the school of Engineering and Aerospace, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), we assembled at a computer lab where one of the professors started off by introducing us to some basic information about science and some mechanics information. Afterwards, a student mentor gave us an overview of each project and what we needed to do. Later on, we got into our groups and started working on the Pop-pop boat. Earlier on, we had watched a video on how to make a Pop-pop boat and started off on our construction. Some made the body of the Pop-pop boat while others helped to prepare the steam engine. They provided us with many tools for the construction such as penknives, scissor, hammers, saws and many more engineering tools. The materials given to us were: Plastic straws, 100-plus aluminium cans, a milk carton (and later on a plastic container), tape and glue. During the first try, water leaked into the boat and it was unable to move forward. After rectifying the mistake, however, it was able to move forward at a considerable speed. Later on, after lunch, we tried making a third boat with two engines but due to the lack of time, it did not work. Next, we moved on the other project which was about the Automatic Waste Sorting Machine. Since the previous team had already been working on it, we were asked to try and improve it furthermore. Due to the time constraints, there was little we could do. Overview of what we did: Firstly, we tested out the machine and found that the counterweight to allow the glass to fall in was not very effective and sought to improve the design. Secondly, we also tried to adjust the angle of the pipe to improve the efficiency of the machine. Overall, it was quite okay although it was not too reliable as it required a person to hold onto the pipe. The steel can could be magnetised but the speed of the magnets could not be too slow not fast and the glass bottle generally fell down into the chute.

After experiencing all the activities today, I have better understood how a steam engine works and how the usage of steam can be implemented into the Pop-pop boat. Furthermore, I have learnt how to develop the steam engine for the Pop-pop boat (one of my previous questions) which is using the aluminium can and blue-tack to build the boiler and contain the water with straws acting as the exhaust pipe where steam can exit. I have also learnt how simple equipment that can be found at home could be used to make a Pop-pop boat which actually operates via simple physics of steam. However, in order to ensure that it works, we must be very meticulous when working and ensure that there are no leaks in the boat. Not only that, I have learnt how we can make use of the different properties of materials to sort them out using a machine.

I feel that today's activities were not only fun, engaging, educational and interactive but also opened me up to a more creative avenue. The activities I have experienced today have truly deepened my understanding of both how to build a simple steam engine and to categorise materials according to their properties, weight and size. This project allowed me to better understand engineering design and how to innovate, improving current solutions. All the above-stated learning points can be applied to the study of physics (Pop-pop boat) to power vehicles. The machine built can also be used in sorting out recyclables from trash to help make our world more green while reducing the waste generated. All in all, I feel that today was spent productively in giving me a better understanding on our projects and helped me to widen my perspectives.


Photo credits: Kwan Jun Jiw

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Pre-camp (23 May, Monday)

The project I am doing is on the Steam engine of a pop-pop boat. After researching and reading up about the various aspects of this project, I was particularly interested and taken in about how the steam engine was quite elaborate and worked quite uniquely. I also took an interest in the relationship between the Pop-pop boat and the steam engine, as I did not know previously that a steam engine could be so simple and fitted into a small toy boat. Looking at what I have learnt online and from the project manual, I feel that through this project, I would be able to understand better how to use and the usages of a steam-powered engine. This project, I believe, would also allow me to have a better understanding of the mechanics of a steam engine and how it can be used and improved as well as applications of it, widening my knowledge.

Some questions I have in mind now:
  1. How is a steam engine built for a Pop-pop boat?
  2. How is steam so powerful as to be able to propel a physical item?
  3. Are there other ways to power up a steam engine other than using a flame?
  4. Are steam engines environmentally-friendly?
  5. Why are steam engines used less and less in today's society?