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