News Archive


NI SE report on humanoid robots and Fanta-can radioactivity at Big Bang Near Me

On 1st July 2014, the Big Bang Near Me, South East event, took place at the South of England Show Ground and some members from SE Branch went along to represent the Nuclear Institute.

Suksun Hutangkabodee, NI SE Branch Chairperson, writes:

The day of the event was a very hot and sunny day. The venue was much bigger than the one used last year (in Crawley) and as a result, there were more activities featuring outdoors this year. For instance, there were army engineers who had their tracked vehicles on display and an excellent pyrotechnics/outdoor fireworks demonstration which explained all about the engineering behind the design of fireworks.

Though presenting activities outdoors was interesting, we were glad to be inside the building (even then we needed to take lots of water to counter the dehydration). We noticed some familiar faces from last year too (such as IET who were neighbours last year!).

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Students enjoying our Robot Arm competition (looked over by Leigh Woodcock, our YGN Officer)

Four of the NI SE committee team were on hand to present nuclear and engineering-related activities to students. Activities that featured on our NI SE stand included:

  • Robot arm model for nuclear waste handling - The students / visitors were challenged to control this mini robot arm in handling the nuclear waste barrels into a skip (after practise we timed the challenge with some surprisingly quick results!).
  • Geiger counter challenge with 6 different materials - 3 different-looking stones (one of which is Cornish granite giving a relatively good reading on the counter), smoke detector (giving the highest reading), salt, and a Fanta can (unexpectedly showing as a little bit radioactive!).
  • Reactor simulation demonstration - This simulation shows different parts of a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) with a little bit of interactive capability. This activity was used to support the explanation to visitors on how a NPP works. It was also a good support for the other two activities above.

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Humanoid robot also featuring in this event (in the same building as us)

We also found other activities interesting. These included the Humanoid Robot (see photo) sensor controlled via an Xbox Kinect, and a great demonstration of how a loudspeaker works. The loudspeaker demonstration involved a simple rig that used a modified computer hard drive that could be hand spun to vary the electrical current sent to a large subwoofer. This was used to demonstrate how current affects loudspeaker cone movement. The loudspeaker cone was filled with a ‘green slime’ (a cornflower based non-Newtonian fluid) which made for very interesting effects when touched during periods that the loudspeaker was moving with large excursions. We appreciated what other Engineering activity providers had presented as well. It helped broaden our perspective on the development of engineering technology in general.

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Photo with our two youngest guests just before packing up our stand for the day

Finally, we managed (just about) to keep enough energy for carrying all our equipment back to our vehicle (those 3 stones mentioned earlier were the most challenging!!!).


Many thanks to South East Branch and all our volunteers for helping at The Big Bang Near Me event.