Mechanical Engineering: Sensing Sight with Sound

First Year Mechanical Engineering students creating a marble run

Event details

Tuesday 14 May 2024
4 to 5pm


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Mechanical engineers are involved with the conception, design, production and marketing of all manufactured products, for the latest aircraft to the delicate instruments used in microsurgery.

Come along to this taster session to see if mechanical engineering could be the right course for you.

Sensing Sight with Sound

In the pitch black, a bat speeds through the air and swoops around a tree to eat a tasty insect snack. Bats avoid trees and find snacks just by using sound. Scientists have taken this further and are using sound to detect flaws in the ancient UK sewage system.

We are now designing a swarm of small robots that use sound to detect cracks and blocks in sewers. In this talk, you will explore a physicist's approach to using sound, like a bat, to find things in the dark. Will you be able to recognise the sound of a blocked sewer?

Maintaining the UK sewer system is a huge issue. Every time we suspect there is a major leak, we need to dig up large parts of our roads, causing traffic jams, air pollution from dust, and the whole operation is very costly.

To make matters worse, much of our sewers are ancient, falling apart, and we have no idea what pipes are where. Not to mention that it is difficult to convince people to go down there to inspect the sewers.

How do we now maintain this ancient labyrinth? A team, led by the University of Sheffield, has the answer: to develop a swarm of small robots to swim through our sewers and detect cracks and blocks.

How do these little robots detect things in the dark? We'lI use physics and trigonometry to break this problem down. From here, we'll build back up to the complex problem.

This session is suitable for students in years 12 and 13.

It's a great opportunity to find out more about both the University and the subject, from people who studied the subject and administrators.

Taster session participant


Please note that this is an approximate schedule and is therefore subject to change.

  • 4pm: Sewer talk. Vote on which sounds correspond to a blocked sewer
  • 4.25pm: Interactive exercise, 'Draw the lines of pressure'
  • 4.35pm: Want to be an engineer?
  • 4.40pm: Question and answer session with current undergraduate students

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