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The Brunel Experience
Each programme presents a practical problem with examples rooted in the accomplishments of Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
in his time, one of the world's greatest engineers.
The Bristol University Library which houses Brunel's notes and many of his original designs, hosted a special course for teams
of 170 secondary school technology students from throughout England.
They were challenged with creating solutions to problems inspired by Brunel's work within specific guidelines for
materials, deadlines and costs.
The programmes alternate nicely between historical facts in documentary style, and the student projects.
4: Easy Does It
It's the 31st of January 1988 and exactly 130 years ago the biggest ship ever built was launched on the river Thames.
The Great Easton, designed by Brunel, had to be launched sideways since the river was too narrow for the length
of the ship to allow a normal head-forward launch. So the ship was built parallel to the bank.
The hull weighed 12,000 tons and was the heaviest thing anyone had ever been called upon to lift.
Constructed on two massive cradles, the problem confronting Brunel was controlling the great ship as it slid sideways into the water.
He employed the principle of friction and used a slipway set at an angle of 1 in 12. But it got stuck!
The problem confronting the students is to design and build a mechanism to lift a marble one-metre off the floor,
transverse 30 centimetres, and then take 20 seconds to lower the marble to the floor.
The materials available are; a variable electric power supply to drive a motor with a built-in gear box which can be switched
on and off with a toggle switch or a pressure sensitive micro switch; a pulley; some string; a piece of cardboard;
some plastic channelling and a length of wooden dowel.
Everything can be joined together using glue, double-sided sticky tape, ordinary sticky tape, panel pins and pop rivets.
The programme concludes with an explanation of how Brunel solved his problem, and the "test" of the student solutions.
A group of teachers also tried their hand at solving this problem. Are they using the same materials?
Presented by Sue Ingle and Max Glaskin
Narrator: Bob Salkeld
Producer: Robin Gwyn
Production Company: BBC Education
Video: DivX 5 720x536 25.00fps 1157Kbps
Audio: MPEG Audio Layer 3 44100Hz 128Kbps
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