Sixth form students from St Benedict’s School have recently taken part in a lecture delivered through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), West Cumbria.
Mike Farrer from IMechE, who also works for Arup as a Senior Mechanical Engineer, delivered the in depth lecture before the half term break in February. It is hoped that more of these types of activity will take part going forward through an ongoing partnership with the school and IMechE West Cumbria.
Mrs Kelso, Assistant Headteacher at St Benedict’s commented: “Mike’s talk contextualised the topic we are currently studying. He added an extra dimension to our students learning and related it to West Cumbria. The students were very appreciative that he took the time to come into our lesson.”
The lecture looked at the development of atomic physics, taking a local viewpoint with some focus on Sellafield.
Mike talked about the unique behaviour which occurred during experiments of the late 19th century igniting the interest of scientists of the day to further investigate the results and phenomena unveiling before them.
It also covered the struggle to unravel the mysteries of the electron, the proton and the Neutron and the momentum towards atomic reactions; an understanding of the mass defect; calculation of the mass defect and the alignment to Einstein’s equation of special relativity.
The talk moved on to the genius of Fermi who finally proved the chain reaction in Chicago Pile 1, the world’s first nuclear reactor, and the launch of the US bomb programme in Los Alamos and Manhattan project.
The final part of the lecture discussed the development of power generation from fission; initially with Calder Hall and then in the 1970s and 80s from the more sophisticated Advanced Gas Cooled reactors developed in prototype format on the Sellafield site.
As a reminder of the responsibilities that come with nuclear power, the lecture concluded with a brief look at the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and examined the lessons learnt.
The students, who are all studying Physics at the Sixth Form, all commented that they found the lecture really useful. In particular they enjoyed the local element, and learning some facts about the history around Sellafield.