Mechanical Engineering taster sessions

These taster sessions gives you an insight into studying Mechanical Engineering at university.

The Diamond building

Sensing the world with sound

A free virtual taster session for  Y12 students.

Book your place here

When: Tuesday 4 May 2021, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Places available: 50

Age group: Year 12, and mature students

Please note this is a repeat session of the event ran in November. You are welcome to attend again, however, please be aware the content of the session will be the same. 

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 been inspired by bats to use 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 learn a physicist's approach to use sound, like a bat, to find things in the dark. Will you be able to recognise the sound of a blocked sewer?

The session will cover 1) a fun application, the UK sewers, 2) I will teach how to approach problems like a physicist, and 3) there will be lots of videos and some interaction with the audience. 

1.) 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, have the answer: we will develop a swarm of small robots to swim through our sewers and detect cracks and blocks.

2.) After presenting the application, I will pose the question: how do these little robots detect things in the dark? I will then show how, with a physics approach, we can break this problem down into simple manageable smaller problems. These small problems involve simple trigonometry and the solution is illustrated with lots of videos from simulations. From there, we build back up to the complex problem.

3.) The talk will involve lots of videos and have strong visual aids throughout. Videos will include bats flying around, sound sensors in pipes, and computer simulations. I will ask the audience to hear sounds and guess what they heard. Did the sound come from a blocked sewer or not? To finish we end with how machine learning is better at recognising sounds then we are.


Time Activity
4:00pm Log in and get comfortable
4:15pm Welcome and introduction to the department
4:30pm Sewer talk. Students vote on which sounds correspond to a block sewer.
4:55pm Interactive “draw the lines of pressure exercise”
5:05pm Q&A with Mechanical Engineering students
5:25pm Closing remarks and next steps

Introduction to 3D Printing

A free virtual taster session for  Y12 students.

Book your place here

When: Tuesday 11 May 2021, 3:45pm - 5:00pm

Places available: 150

Age group: Year 12, and mature students

Have you heard about 3D Printing but don't really know what it's all about?

Perhaps you've seen some things in the media but don't really know how it might have an impact on your life?

Then come along to this mini lecture covering 3D Printing basics, some things you might be surprised to learn about it, and a bit about the exciting research we're doing here in Sheffield to make it even better!


Time Activity
3:45pm Log in and get comfortable
4:00pm Welcome and introduction to the department
4:10pm Interactive subject taster
4:40pm Q&A with Mechanical Engineering students
4:55pm Closing remarks and next steps

We look forward to meeting you!

For informal enquiries please email


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