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31 March, 2016 - 10:54 By Tony Quested

Sounds an ‘ice’ way to inspire new wave of innovators

iteams. young innovators, amy weatherup

Science & technology specialists in Cambridge helped to inspire future generations of innovators as children as young as six won the annual i-Teams competition – ‘What Would You Use THAT For?’ – at the Institute for Manufacturing.

The new kids on the STEM block received demonstrations from Cambridge UK sound technology business Audio Analytic and the British Antarctic Survey and were challenged to suggest new ways of exploiting the two organisations’ world-leading science and technologies.

The competition formed part of Cambridge’s much-vaunted Science Festival and iTeams organiser Amy Weatherup hailed a significant success.

She said: “This year’s demonstrations allowed visitors to draw an image and listen to its sound, experiment with guitar strings, and investigate a number of systems used in the Arctic and Antarctic to monitor penguins, sea ice and climate change.”

Scientists from the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey showcased the wide range of technologies deployed in the world’s polar regions.

These included a penguin weighbridge that automatically measures how much food penguins eat at each meal, a system for using radar to measure the thickness of kilometre-thick sea ice to the nearest millimetre, a wavebuoy to monitor the freezing and melting of sea ice, and the ADIOS system which is deployed into remote regions by air and tracks the movement of glaciers.

Sound experts from Audio Analytic Labs demonstrated the science of automatic sound recognition through a three-steps, hands-on experiment. Step one involved playing a stringed instrument to understand the generation of sound waves.

Step two illustrated how computers can capture and represent the composition of sounds, as young experimenters were able to synthesise their own sounds by drawing classical sound wave shapes, simple pictures and even text directly onto the computer screen.

Step three was about experimenting with a computer clever enough to recognise the mooing sound of a cow. As a souvenir, the children were invited to make their own ‘guitar cups’ to take home.

Visitors were invited to think of how they might use the technologies in new and innovative ways – and social enterprise was very much to the fore, as well as uses to satisfy sheer curiosity.

Winners were Eleanor Endersby, aged 10 from Sandye Place Academy, who wanted to detect the sound of taps dripping; Joel Jackson, aged seven from Haslingfield Endowed Primary School, who planned to detect a cat’s miaow; nine-year-old Jenna Riches from Sandye Place Academy, who would detect the sound of distressed animals; Meri Green (13) from Bottisham Village College, who suggested modifying the wavebuoy to warn of earthquakes and seismic activity; and six-year-old Ben Hull from William Westley Church of England Primary School, who wanted to turn the ADIOS system into a jet pack.

The winners received science-based prizes and a certificate marking their award-winning idea. 

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