On Friday 17 year old Finlay Cuffe won a prestigious Third Place Award at the Intel sponsored International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). The Sutton Grammar student travelled to Los Angeles to compete. Finlay, and his colleague Shahab Fazal from Manchester’s Loreto Sixth Form College, were the only 2 students representing Great Britain at this major international competition, which saw 1,778 students from 78 countries competing for awards.
Finlay and Shahab were selected to represent the UK at the Young Engineers National Finals, held at the Big Bang Fair in March. The Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers (WCSIM), a City Livery Company which promotes the craft of scientific instrument making, sponsored the two students, funding the all-expenses-paid trip to the Los Angeles. The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington also supported, by mentoring the two students, guiding their development work on their entries and helping to improve their presentation skills ahead of the competition.
Seeking to make radiation cheaper to demonstrate and teach
Finlay’s project seeks to reduce the cost of Cloud Chambers, devices which enable radiation to be visualised. Models currently on the market use expensive and hazardous material to cool the chambers to the required very low temperature. Finlay has managed to devise an alternative to achieve the same low temperatures using thermoelectric and evaporative cooling. Finlay is still working on further optimisation; increasing reliability and reducing costs of production; so that his Cloud Chamber can become an affordable piece of equipment for any school wishing to visually demonstrate radiation.
Finlay recognises that his superb ISEF achievement along with his aspirations as an electrical engineer may well have not come to fruition had it not been for some key influencers.
He explained “I had the same teacher from Year 3 to 6 and they really encouraged me. It was the effort that teacher put into holding after school clubs which helped me to find I really enjoyed engineering. A lot of kids when they’re younger enjoy playing with Lego and K’Nex, but they find a difficulty in applying those fun skills to later life… …it needs someone to bridge that gap between the seemingly mundane academia and the fun and enjoyment you can get from doing STEM projects. You have to link enjoying the subject with appreciating the difficult aspects of it.”
Heather Williams, Chief Executive of the Young Engineers charity, said:
“We are extremely proud of Finlay’s achievement. He is a fantastic example of raw talent captured and brought to the engineering sector. His learning journey shows that when great teachers, along with organisations such as Young Engineers, provide fun and practical activities they open student’s eyes to the world of engineering. By encouraging and guiding their enthusiasm, students who might not have seen engineering as their ‘bag’ end up being some of the best and most promising engineers of the lot! Our ISEF candidates have now won major category prizes in four out of the past five years of competing. This shows the UK does already turn out fantastically talented young engineers. Our challenge is to make sure more students are given the opportunity and support which guided Finlay to his success.”
Find out more:
Visit the YEB Intel ISEF webpage for more information: https://www.youngeng.org.uk/members/competitions/yeb-intel-isef/
Apply for Young Engineer for Britain Mentoring: https://www.youngeng.org.uk/members/individual-students/yeb_mentoring/