Students experimenting with a bottle

A sticky situation for future engineers

Year 6 pupils from Linton Heights Junior School trained as welders with TWI, using an unusual material.

The main hall of Linton Heights Junior School was the setting for the pilot session of a new way of teaching welding… using chocolate!  The Welding Institute (TWI) has for many years been using the properties of chocolate bars to show children how welding works to make girders, but when Covid-19 put a halt to school visits, all of the employers working with Cambridge LaunchPad had to think of a new way to do things.

A team of young engineers from TWI worked with the Cambridge LaunchPad to make a series of instructional videos and supporting activities that teachers can use in their classrooms at any time.

The lucky pupils of Linton Heights were the very first to try the new-style session, transforming ordinary bars of white chocolate into box girder bridges, then testing them to destruction.  

A student said: 

“It was SO much fun! We couldn’t believe how strong our bridge was. It was really great trying out all the weights: we got more than 3 kilos on ours!” 

Miss Anna Campbell (Art and Design Technology lead) said: 

“We were really impressed by how well the children all worked together to carefully make their bridges. We’re definitely going to do this again. We can think of lots of different subjects that this can link to.” 

Another pupil described the challenge: 

“The chocolate kept melting and breaking and we all got really sticky. But we didn’t give up. We used our team working skills to problem solve and stick it back together again.” 

 The fact that it was one of the hottest days of the year certainly did add an extra dimension to the day. The pupils watched videos giving them clear instructions and were also tasked with considering what skills an engineer would need to have. 

Matthew Haslett, TWI’s Principal Project Leader, who developed the activity, was delighted with the feedback: 

“The children were asked ‘Who can become an engineer?’. We were thrilled to hear that their immediate, unanimous response was ‘Anyone!’.” 

Senior Corrosion Technician, Catherine Leahy, said: 

“We’ve been taking this activity into classrooms for years, but creating a virtual version is a new step for us. It does allow us to show pictures of people at work, so that students can see examples of different jobs too.” 

The next step is to refine the videos and supporting materials so that the session can work for pupils of all ages. The resources will then be made available to schools via the Cambridge LaunchPad website. 

LaunchPad Programme Manager, Lisa Taylor, explained: 

“It’s very exciting to be developing a new collection of resources like this. Getting young people hands-on is one of the best ways to encourage them to try STEM subjects. The impact of Covid-19 has inspired us to think of new ways to take activities into schools.”