Scalextric4Schools Challenge is a winner!
24 Jul 2012
Scalextric4schools aims to provide schools with a low-cost, exciting 'design- make- race' challenge to encourage more pupils to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. And it's going from strength to strength.
This year, it has introduced yet more innovation and is certainly breaking new ground, in terms of going international. In fact, nine teams of students of 11 to 17 years of age, from all over England, Scotland and Russia, competed in the 2012 scalextric4schools finals, held on 24 June at the RAF Museum, Cosford, for the second year in succession.
Teams spent almost a year working on their designs for Scalextric4schools – a partnership between PTC, Hornby Hobbies and PTC reseller Root Solutions – and that commitment was clearly evident in the performance of the cars on the track. The judges all said how much they enjoyed meeting the teams and seeing their presentations, but they found it very difficult to mark such a variety of work.
The two teams from Russia, attending for the first time, had been helped by their reseller IRISOFT, from St Petersberg. "They have done masterclasses in the use of PTC's Creo design software to get them started," says Tim Brotherhood, PTC's curriculum development manager in the UK. "But, because of limited manufacturing resources in-house, they had help from a school in Lancashire, Our Lady Queen of Peace Engineering College, who helped them with manufacturing. They also had cars rapid prototyped in North America and at a commercial service bureau for rapid prototyping in St Petersburg. They even had a masterclass in rendering by videoconferencing from Mark Fisher of PTC in Canada, so they really exploited every aspect of the PTC worldwide network."
In all, 12 people travelled from Russia, including eight students in two teams of four. There were teams from as far north as Angus in Scotland, Forfar Academy, and all over England.
Scalextric4schools continues to attract high-calibre students to the engineering disciplines and almost as many girls are involved as boys, combining as it does the academic engineering aspects, as well as the more craft-oriented manufacturing side. This, coupled with the element of fun, which is quintessentially 'Scalextric', and the competition between schools, continues to surprise and delight the judges every year.
"This year, there was more emphasis on simulation than previous years," says Brotherhood. "And we had members of the Russian teams writing Creo Apps to automate some of the geometry generation."
Three things stood out in the 2012 contest. "The quality of engineering in the cars had made a major leap forward and two of the Russian team members had explored aspects of Creo we had not seen from schools in previous years," says Brotherhood. "One had used the surfacing tools in Creo to create a very aerodynamic body shape, inspired by Lamborghini, and the other had programmed a new command in 'C' to auto-round parallel edges. I have never seen this level of work before from a school."
The judges also remarked on the innovative designs, quality of manufacture and clever use of Creo 3D parametric modelling software. Many people commented on the professionalism, cooperation and support offered within and, in some cases, between teams. The racing was very close, with skilled driving and clever tuning to extract the last ounce of performance from the cars.
The numbers were slightly down this year, but the quality was way up. According to Brotherhood, this was probably due to curriculum changes at government level and the lack of support for what government considers to be non-core subjects. Currently, it looks like DT (design technology) will remain as part of the National Curriculum, but things are far from certain at the moment. Because of these changes at government level, teachers are increasingly finding it difficult to get out of school to cover extra-curricular activities.
Consequently, most of the scalextric4schools' activity is happening in the classroom during the normal school day, which tends to limit the time the students can spend developing their projects. Some schools have managed to form after-school clubs, which gives them more flexibility.
"We still have the Scalextric F3 circuit, but this year Hornby has redesigned the layout. It is now fully landscaped and, instead of a figure of eight in one plane, it is now a figure of eight with elevation and crossover," continues Brotherhood. "This circuit came as a surprise to all the finalists as they had been designing and testing on the planer version of this circuit. There is also a high-speed straight line track, with electronic timing, to find the fastest entrant. The students can design separate cars for the circuit and the high speed track or have a single car capable of accommodating both layouts. The new F3 circuit is a bit more of a challenge for the car and the driver, because of the elevation changes."
Land speed challenge
The high-speed track is sponsored by the Bloodhound SSC project and involves land speed record attempts on a 40 m track. This was managed on the day by Chris Jarman and David Eyre – former teachers at Edgecliff school, Staffordshire, who came up with the idea of developing a slot car competition for schools and allowing PTC to develop their concept into what is scalextric4schools today.
"Some of the cars are approaching 30 miles an hour real speed, which equates to somewhere in the region of 600 to 700 miles an hour, scale speed," says Brotherhood. "There are Mathcad sheets available for the purpose of calculating the scale speed."
Scale Speed is a tricky concept to grasp, as there are various ways of calculating it. The Scalextric car is a one 32nd scale model, so by multiplying the actual speed by 32 gives you scale speeds in the region of 700-900mph. But this simplistic approach does not allow for things that cannot be scaled, like friction, air resistance and air pressure.
A more realistic approach is to use Foulds constant in the calculation, producing something like 400mph and, if you go down the more complex Reynolds number route, where air temperature, humidity and air pressure are measured, it produces a more realistic 275mph.
"The beauty of this is that the students are exposed to the details of calculating scale speed," says Brotherhood. "It's not a simple multiplier and it also allows everybody to use the facilities offered by Mathcad to do the calculations. You can't scale the density of air, so the variation in the calculation is quite revealing for the students."
The speed is measured by using an overhead high intensity halogen lamp with a light sensor built into the track, so, when a car cuts the beam over a measured distance, it is easy to calculate the speed.
Teams from #30 School, St Petersburg, Russia
Wing Commander Niall Griffiths presented the school with a print of Spitfires signed by sponsors, partners and keynote speakers.
SKEM DM – Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Engineering College, Skelmersdale, Lancs
PM Ladoga – School #30, St Petersburg, Russia
Fastest F3 car
WRC – Wootton Upper School,
Bloodhound SSC Land Speed Record
Leek & Potato Soup – Leek High School
The Gauntlet – Forfar Academy
All winning teams were presented with a signed certificate and a Scalextric set donated by Hornby/Scalextric. All pupils taking part were presented with individual McLaren MP4-12C Scalextric cars donated by Hornby/Scalextric. All teams who took part in the finals were also presented with a selection of gifts by the RAF Museum.
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