x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Supersonic car arrives to attract young engineers

The car will be on display during BETT, an education and technology event taking place on November 21 and 22 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

An artist's impression of the supersonic Bloodhound car, due in Abu Dhabi next month.
An artist's impression of the supersonic Bloodhound car, due in Abu Dhabi next month.

DUBAI // Science and maths lessons will get a supersonic boost when a vehicle being built to travel faster than a bullet is brought to the capital to promote careers in engineering next month.

Developers of the Bloodhound SSC, a vehicle that is set to travel 447 metres a second on completion, will be presenting their prototype for the first time outside the UK, to students in Abu Dhabi.

The car will be on display during BETT, an education and technology event taking place on November 21 and 22 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Richard Nobel, holder of the land speed record between 1983 and 1997, heads up the Bloodhound project. He says its aim is to promote Stem education (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in schools. 

Public schools in the country have yet to adopt Stem education, a hands-on method of teaching core subjects to high school students.

"In the UAE there are only a few secondary schools that can currently deliver an integrated Stem curriculum," said Mark Hale, associate dean of the Centre of Excellence for Engineering at the Dubai Men's College.

"The consequences of not adopting Stem at a secondary school level will dramatically impact the development of a technology-literate workforce and technology-enabled society. A Stem approach within schools, combined with suitable projects, could help engage Emirati children."

Mr Nobel said countries that neglect Stem education, and do not produce enough scientists and engineers as a result, will have a heavy price to pay.

"The UAE is moving away from its dependence on oil, and the Government has recognised the need for Stem education to encourage students into industries and fields of technology and engineering," said Mr Nobel.

"This is why our sponsors asked us to bring the project to Abu Dhabi."

Around 4,000 schools in the UK subscribe to the Bloodhound Education Programme, which allows them to follow the development of the car in real time. All the technology and car-operating data is updated online and educators can access lesson plan ideas to engage students in the classroom through hands-on activities. 

Mr Nobel said the difficulty for teachers has been in finding ways to make subjects like science and maths interesting. 

"The land speed model is the best model for this as it covers all the Stem subjects and makes it more of an adventure for the students." 

A previous attempt to introduce Stem education projects in public schools received a lukewarm response. 

Earlier this year, Edutech announced a Dh4.6 billion donation of professional design and engineering software to public schools. The company offered to install PTC's Pro/Engineer Wildfire in schools that were interested, and train teachers for free. 

But it did not find many takers, said S Senthil Kugan, the head of Scitech Solutions.

"In the UK and US, Stem education is the buzzword at schools, but here teachers still prefer conventional teaching methods and this is affecting the students' output," he said.

The software would have enabled schools to introduce Scalextric4Schools - a programme that allows students to design, build and race model cars while learning core concepts in the Stem curriculum.

The Design and Technology Department at Repton School in Dubai offers the  Scalextric4Schools project - which is used to introduce concepts such as Fleming's left-hand rule for electric motors and right-hand rule for generators, motion, electrical circuits and more, to high school students.

Most private schools in the country, Mr Kugan says, subscribe to the Stem approach to teaching. In a move to encourage government schools to join the programme, the company has partnered with Dubai Men's College to train 15 public school teachers on the use of Scalextric4Schools engineering software. 

"Due to the poor response, we have had to adopt schools and the results we achieve with them will, hopefully, motivate the others to join in too," said Mr Kugan.

 

aahmed@thenational.ae