Wave machine design propels Voe pupils towards big prize

Pupils from Olnafirth School in Voe are turning into budding scientists with the development of a wave machine that is in line for a national prize.

The project started when prinicipal teacher Rachel Colclough, who runs a science club at the school, received an email from a Scottish organisation about a competition to invent a wave-powered generator.

Mrs Colclough taught the 11 pupils in the composite P5-7 class that a coil and magnet working in tandem would generate electricity. She said: “Once they understood that they came up their own designs. It really got serious.”

At this stage Mrs Colclough, who has a background in geomorphology, decided she needed a bit of help, and since the school is linked to BP she was able to call on its scientists. One of the children’s designs was chosen as the one to take forward and the class “really got behind it”.

A prototype was made out of K-Nex and tested in a bathtub, then it was back to the drawing board. A blueprint was developed by the end of February and they had until the end of April to come up with a device.

This they did and tested it in the sea. “It worked a treat,” said Mrs Colclough.

On Friday the school heard it had been shortlisted for the Junior Saltire Award, one of only three schools in Scotland to be shortlisted in the P5-7 category. Mrs Colclough said: “We really didn’t know what we were up against, but we knew what we’d got was really good.” The design by such young pupils was free from “inhibitions” about what wave-powered generators were, she said, and added: “I was really impressed with what the children came up with, I’m really proud of them.”

They now have a month to make modifications to their device before going to Glasgow to pit it against those of the other two schools, and are hoping for the top prize in their category.

The invention will be showcased in Glasgow on 8th June when it will be taken to Strathclyde University to be tested in a wave tank. It will be exhibited at a Science Fair on that date and, in a highlight to the show, the winner of the Saltire Awards will be announced.

The invitation to go to Glasgow only includes four pupils, however, and Mrs Colclough insists they earn their place on the trip. She has asked them each to come up with a presentation and will pick the pupils who can “present us in the best way”.


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