STEM Centre, Northumberland College

Year 4 had an incredible time at the recently opened, £2.5 million STEM centre in Ashington. We took part in four exciting activities that encouraged problem solving, creative thinking and developed our understanding of STEM as a whole.

One of the STEM tasks we took part in was linked to forensics. We found out that forensic facts are anything that can be used by a judge to determine whether someone is guilty or not of having committed a crime. One particular aspect of forensics that we studied today was our finger prints. Every person’s finger print is completely unique to them (unless you have an identical twin) and each one of your ten fingers has its own individual print. We used magnetic ink to scan for a finger print, which was fascinating, and then used a plastic sheet to take a copy of it. Using finger print inks, we then took a sample of our classmates’ finger prints and compared it to the print that was taken. There are definitely some future forensic scientists and detectives in our year group!

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Another exciting opportunity we had, was to learn about Chromatography in relation to Skittles sweets. We placed a combination of skittle sweets around the edge of a Petri dish and then added water. As the out layer of each sweet dissolved into the water, the effect this was made was amazing. After we learned what was happening scientifically during this process, we were treated to something really special. We saw a chemical reaction between two different materials occur that was truly explosive!

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We were introduced to some  innovative new technologies while spending time with Gordon in his lab. He is working with 3D printers, Computer Assisted Design machines and a device that is able to cut and carve any design that is inputted into a computer. When we were given a chance to ask questions, Gordon was really impressed with what we had to say. One of us asked if it would be possible to 3D print food, thinking that it was a strange thing to ask, however Gordon told us that it was completely possible and that he thinks that in 20 years time we will see vending machines that will do this!  Gordon clearly explained to us how being an engineer was all about coming up with solutions to problems and he shard a prosthetic hand that he and his team had made, for the tiny cost of £5, that will be used to make the lives of children in Africa with missing limbs better. To know that we will be able to work with these technologies in the future if we want to at places like Northumberland College was really exciting to us.

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One of the things that we all loved taking part in was our ‘Engineering in a Box’ challenge. We were split into four teams, given a load of different resources and eight challenges that we had to complete within 20 minutes. All of the members of staff we really impressed by how we were able to quickly organise ourselves, share the workload and come up with interesting ways to solve the problems we had. We know that to be an engineer you must be able to come up with more than one way to look at the problem put in front of us and it was great to find out that for each challenge, every team had come up with a different way to solve it.

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