REVIEW – National Mining Museum – Energy Workshop for Edinburgh International Science Festival

This afternoon our mini-Spotlight reporter, Alex, had the opportunity to experience an energy workshop being run at the National Mining Museum at Newtongrange, only 3 miles from the Edinburgh City bypass.

Alison Shepherd, the Education Officer at the National Museum of Mining and Emma Lean, one of the reception staff at the Museum presented the Energy Lab.

The building in which the Energy Workshop was housed used to be the lab used by Professor Steven Salter of Edinburgh University. The building was moved to the Museum in the hope that it would be a place where children could be encouraged to become engineers.

Professor Salter’s machine “The Duck”, was developed to create tidal energy, and there were displays of his work and that of other engineers in the field.

Not just any old shed

During the workshop the children discussed different types of energy:

Light, Sound, Heat, Electrical (with a very important DANGER warning),
Chemical, Gravitational, Elastic, Solar and Movement or Kinetic energy.

Easy experiments were used and helped to demonstrate how energy can be changed but not created or destroyed.

Simple questions like “What did you have for breakfast?” Demonstrated  that we had some real potential scientists in the room. “Atoms!” came the reply. (Which is true actually, says Alex! )

We looked at the principles used by Michael Faraday whose experiment to show generation of electricity using copper coils and magnets was replicated in many ways with different interactive demonstrations.

As we were at the National Mining Museum it was also a chance to look at coal and discuss  where it comes from and how it was created.

Using up lots of the natural movement of the children in the group, a Mexican wave was organised, with cushions representing the coil of wire and magnets to show how the “snake” developed by Dr  Richard Yemm would function. He made a prototype for use in a pool and the children were able to use a working model with a meter which shows how much energy is being created. Lots of fun and very hot children resulted.

There was plenty of time at the end of the 1-1/2 hour workshop to continue the experiments and the fun, with dropping stones into a bucket of water being a favourite of the group on the day we were there.

The children were encouraged to write about something new they had learned or their favourite things in the workshop, which will be passed on to Professor Salter so that he can see how effectively his shed is being used in its new home.

Alex’s memory of the day will be cycling hard on a tandem and discovering how much energy is wasted as heat energy as you try to create electricity.

This is the first time the National Mining Museum has been part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, and after our visit today we truly hope this engagement will continue. They would like to acknowledge the help of the Royal Academy  of Engineering Ingenious fund in helping to set up the Energy Lab.

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