Last week, Mr Mead and I had the pleasure of taking a group of year 9 girls on the Innovation Trail that is part of the Great Exhibition of the North. The trail is intended as a showcase of designers, engineers, businesses and many others who are from Northern England and are, or were, outstanding and extraordinary in their fields. We certainly saw many innovative ideas from the past and present at our various stops.

Starting at the Old Post Office, now owned by NBS, a company who provide software to the construction industry, where we were able to use computers and tablets to explore both the Old Post Office itself and a number of building that NBS software had been used to design. The girls were particularly skilled at software to design their own buildings, impressing me and the member of NBS staff talking to us.

Our next stop was to Ryder Architecture, Cooper studios for Horse to Hyperloop: the Evolution of Design. The building itself was beautifully restored keeping a number of its original features such as a ladies viewing platform for the horse auctions that took place when the building first opened. The students designed their own vehicles to place in a pod that was soon whizzing round the room in a model of the Hyperloop. It is estimated that in the future we will be able to travel from Newcastle to Liverpool in 35 minutes rather than 3 hours as it currently takes on a train.

We continued our journey to the Lit and Phil then the mining institute next door to it. We learnt a little about the history of Swan and his light bulb then saw a new, longer lasting, much more efficient lightbulb that used graphene for its filament. The girls were very impressed by the gallery library, exploring the different sections and observing some of the unusual artefacts the Lit and Phil have had donated to them over the years.   The Lego display, of places, people and inventions from the North, at the Mining Institute captivated us all. There were a number of things that we hadn’t realised were created in the North such as Meccano and crosswords. Our students then recorded a message to the future, stating what changes they would make to save the future. The recording machine printed a soundwave of the recording with its own unique number, which could be used on Instagram to hear the recording played back.

Upstairs in the Mining Institute we investigated an exhibition created to promote civil engineering. We were very impressed by software that projected an image of contour lines on mounds of sand. The idea behind it being that engineers can shape sand to represent the topography of an area they are going to build on to ensure the building would be viable. When the students wiggled their fingers under the sensor rain was projected onto the sand, filling low lying places indicating if any buildings were liable to flooding.

Our final stop was the Discovery Museum, where in addition to exploring the science zone, we were given a talk about the history of the infamous Stephenson’s Rocket. We learnt how the steam engine worked, adaptations that took place during its working life and about the Rainhill Trials.

All of the students were very polite, actively engaged with all of the activities and were a complete pleasure to be with. The exhibition is on until 9th September and well worth a visit. All of the displays we saw, as well as many others are free.

Mrs Robson

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