Our first solar car Affinity starred as one of the largest attractions at Queen Edith Primary School’s “Science and Technology Saturday” event on 28th January 2012. Other activities on the day included: manufacturing Jelly Baby DNA, playing with insects, posing with skeletons and a show involving baguette swordplay.
Getting Affinity to and from the school was the hardest part of the day, not to mention the early start on a Saturday, and missing the turning into the storage area for Affinity. The main question one should ask is how many engineers does it take to move a trailer with Affinity on board? It’s a trick question – the answer is just one (+ a chemist and a physicist). Removing Affinity from its storage container was like parallel parking into a space a few inches larger than the size of the car – possible, but must be done with great precision, skill, and the odd bit of brute force to move objects out of the way. After removing Affinity, putting the solar panel canopy back and fastening her down, we were ready to visit the school.
Approximately two minutes after departing, there were growing concerns not just for the poor line of motorists having to queue up behind us, but about something flapping around on the trailer, which we had to stop and check. False alarm! It was just a piece of duct tape flapping in the wind. Once again we continued our journey, to arrive at what we thought was Queen Edith Primary School only to discover it was actually their partner Queen Emma Primary School. We had to turn around in the school and then finally a few minutes later we arrived at the right school.
Just before reaching the entrance we were approached by a member of staff cycling around giving us instructions of what to do, which we promptly ignored. Shortly afterwards we had parked our car on one side of a roundabout and Affinity on the other side. Once established, we were welcomed warmly by cups of tea and rather amusing headgear and signs on the backs of the teachers suggesting that they were extra-terrestrials.
After we saw a few kids and their parents arrive for the day, it was evident that we were perhaps in a less-than-perfect location to display our solar powered vehicle. We were situated at the back door (exit only, but not the main exit) of the whole event. This door wouldn’t open without a code, which we didn’t have, so we had to continuously wedge it open with anything we could find, from rocks to coffee mugs, but nothing seemed to do the trick.
Following the initial disappointment, we began to have many intrigued schoolchildren and parents approach us once the proceedings got going. We did our best to tell everyone about our CUER, what we stand for, what we have achieved and what we are trying to achieve, as well as answer any burning questions about engineering and solar-powered vehicles that both the kids and parents were asking.
Throughout the day the children were being children and highly sporadic in their behaviour towards the car. Some children were intrigued about the driver’s seat, the inner workings and technical aspects, whereas others were more interested in making it the world’s most expensive drum kit and wanted to start a band using the vehicle!
It was approaching lunch time, it was at this point the staff dangerously allowed us to raid the staff room for some snacks to keep us going. We appreciatively accepted the offerings and took a bit of everything including cookies, cakes and chocolate rice crispy bars.
As things began winding down and traffic slowed, we decided to call it a day to get Affinity back safely before sundown. Before leaving, Queen Edith kindly gave us a Toblerone for our contribution to the science and technology event to take back with us.
After returning Affinity to its storage area our final destination was the Engineering Department, where we found members of the technical team were hard at work preparing Endeavour for the Millbrook event the following weekend. Despite it being quite a long session in getting the vehicle out early in the morning and putting it back late in the afternoon, we all enjoyed the day out away from our desks.