Maths pupils get measure of the city

Some of the youngsters taking part in the residential course.
Some of the youngsters taking part in the residential course.

Thirty of the UK’s most talented young mathematicians came to Lancaster for a four-day residential summer school.

The theme of the week was ‘Exploring Shape and Space’ and activities included lectures by Lancaster’s pure mathematicians, hands-on mini-projects and a long group project.

This Headstart course was arranged by the University with the Engineering Development Trust, a charity that provides hands-on STEM activities at top universities to encourage young people into science and technology-based careers.

One of the highlights was measuring various aspects of the university campus using only basic equipment. The students had to estimate the height of Bowland Tower, the speed of the university wind turbine and the surface area of Lake Carter.

Topics explored included Penrose tilings, fractals and rigidity of frameworks, a department specialism.

Rigidity has many applications to industry and an industrial collaborator of the department, Dr John Owen of Siemens, visited the event to talk to the participants about how this research is important for computer-aided design.

Another related topic, tensegrity structures, made from bars and extensible cables (or elastic bands as they are better known) was guided by Lancaster lecturer Dr Bernd Schulze.

Prof Peter Goodhew from the Royal Academy of Engineering, who attended the final day of the summer school, said: “It was delightful to see 30 mathematically-inclined youngsters engaging so successfully with open-ended challenges.”

The summer school included a Grapevine session, which linked academic subjects to careers and industry.