Cambridge Science Festival
A new opportunity arose for us in March 2015, when UCell was invited to participate in the Cambridge Science Festival. During the event we were offered a space in the Chemistry Department to present an array of fuel cell technologies alongside a multitude of experiments from different fields of chemistry. We brought our new demonstration materials with us which consist of a reversible fuel cell and a hydrogen car. These tools helped us excite our audience and explained to the children how hydrogen is produced and how it can be used in real life. The children paid extra attention to the driving skills of our fuel cell car, which drove around the table manically!
In addition, we brought a thermal camera along, which was one of three devices we were powering with our powerful fuel cell. Children and adults alike were invited to take a look at the temperature of their faces and hands and could get their first hydrogen-powered thermal image. The kids in particular took great delight in warming up their cold noses or placing their cold hands on their hot brows to see how the colours changed on the screen with temperature!
School Visits in Lebanon
During April UCell went international for the first time with a visit to Lebanon. Dina Ibrahim went back to her home country and delivered a demonstration and discussion on hydrogen technologies to undergraduate Chemical Engineering students at the American University of Beirut and Lebanese Baccalaureate students at two schools in her hometown. Using the the demo kit, students were able to understand the concept of the system and engage well especially when running the fuel cell car using electricity produced from hydrogen.
Dina had the opportunity to meet motivated young students specialising in chemical engineering as well as some of her professors and lecturers from her old college and schools. They discussed the impact of fuel cells and green energy in promoting a sustainable future. She received great feedback from the students and lecturers involved in the demonstrations. Hopefully, this will be just the beginning for UCell International! Stay posted where our next stop will be and join us!
Imperial CDT Festival – Criticism and Science
Putting all sense of rivalry aside, UCell got back in the van and took the fuel cell, demo kits, laptops and TV to the (almost as good) university known as Imperial College (IC). The event this time involved a gathering of about 10 Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), based partly or fully at IC, watching talks about criticism in science, taking part in a panel discussion and most importantly asking questions about fuel cells! The aim of the demonstrations and conversation was to have some of the controversy surrounding the hydrogen economy dispelled and allay any unnecessary fears about the technology. The attendees worked in a variety of areas from the advanced characterisation of materials to the mathematics of planet earth, so with a bright and engaged crowd of PhD students, UCell knew they had to expect a lot of challenging questions. They weren’t wrong!
The team ran the fuel cell, green LEDs drawing everyone in, to power a presentation on a variety of issues surrounding hydrogen – from safety concerns to public perception, from economic barriers to new fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). At the same time, some of the audience sat down to play a game of Arχiv versus Snarχiv where the player has to try to distinguish between real academic paper titles and some surprisingly believable fabricated ones. This was a great way to engage the audience with a game surrounding publication (a hot topic throughout the day) whilsproviding a fully green‑powered platform for them to do it on!
Elutech Open Day
Setting off early on Saturday 26th of April, the UCell team headed to Elutec- a new University Technical College for East London and Essex for 14-19 year olds looking to specialise in engineering or design- for their open day. UCL’s contribution to the educational programs at Elutec gave enough purpose for UCell to take part in this open day event. The students hopefully benefited from this connection.
Questions they might have had on progression into college, what subjects to choose and what specific paths they might like to go down were answered. On occasion, the UCell team were asked about their PhD’s and where their interests lie. This helped to personalise the whole experience for the UCell members and the students. The highlight of the day was definitely the high quality of engagement that took place between the UCell members and the students who took such an interest in fuel cell technology. Overall, the day was fun and it was great to see young minds so passionate already about future design and technology. Taking the demo kit with them, the main focus of the day was to engage with young teenagers who were interested in design/engineering and hopefully enlighten them on hydrogen powered technology. The students were shown the various stages of the demo kit from splitting water using electricity into hydrogen and oxygen, and then recombining the hydrogen and oxygen to produce water and electricity. This electricity was used to power a small car for the students to see.
This time round, UCell had the opportunity to be part of “Science Close Up”, one of the most exciting family science events of the year. Visitors were able to see everyday technologies from inside the Harwell campus, where cutting-edge research is constantly unfolding. There were a bunch of different stands, from an ice-cream demonstration to the presentation of the LEGO synchrotron! Everything was set to welcome up to 10,000 people. UCell was there on 8th and 11th July, equipped with the iconic fuel cell that on this occasion powered the ice-cream fridge next to us.
We also brought more of our expanding demo kit collection, that continue to catch children’s eyes. People of different ages approached us to listen, ask questions and share concerns. Safety, costs, infrastructure and politics were among the subjects. It is encouraging to see how people are excited to see what comes next for fuel cells.
UCell’s first music festival of 2015 was the Innocent Unplugged Festival over the bank holiday weekend (22nd-25th May), run by Innocent Smoothies. Although the weather was certainly variable, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming!
So that’s where UCell stepped in. Alongside solar power for the stage and shower, the 3kW stack was employed to keep the bar running and hence keep the pints coming, and coming refreshingly cold! Adding to the electricity generated, there were bikes and a see-saw with dynamos and a human-sized hamster wheel for good measure!
The event’s purpose was to provide an off-grid haven to relax away from buzzing city life; mobile phones, tablets and all other WiFi-enabled devices were firmly switched off. Through the bales of hay, and between vegan snacks, onlookers came to see and hear all about fuel cells and ask questions about hydrogen, from economy and efficiency to safety and infrastructure. The crowd were amazed to see the technology working before their eyes, particularly that it was capable of such a high power output.
Highlights included chats with members of the Department of Energy and Climate Change about the progress of hydrogen as a staple future source of energy as well as educating an enthusiastically engaged crowd about Toyota’s recent decision to prove the safety of their FCEV by shooting it with bullets. All in all UCell had a fantastic time, relaxing in an environment geared up for green thinking and clean living.
Big Bang Event
Demo kits packed and ready, we sent a team of three (Fabiola Valdes-Lopez, Tom Heenan and Rema Abdulaziz) to participate at the Big Bang Fair. The event took place a short walk down the road from UCL, at Westminster Kingsway College, on Wednesday the 1st of July. The aim of the event was to inspire students with potentials in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. A range of activities was provided for them, and UCL Engineering had a dedicated large room, where our team set up the UCell stand for the day.
Some 2000 students from different ages and backgrounds took part, thus our team kept busy throughout the day. With the help of the demo kits and a projected animation, our team explained to the students how electrolysers and fuel cells work. They had discussions about green energy and the environmental issues that we face these days. The day was a success, and the students seemed to enjoy it as much as our team did.
Spark Festival at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
With fires in our bellies we were up at dawn, Gas lines ready and the valves turned on, Trumpets played and the air fans blew, The hydrogen energy was very much due, The Olympic Park with science for the young, Our hydrogen cars provoked wonder and fun, Neighbouring stalls programmed life predictions, Powered by hydrogen it was far from fiction, Our candid fuel cell not provoking a peep, But knowledge of power the people did reap, The sun sets and thoughts smoulder. The Park becomes dark and our fuel cell colder.
Off with a splash on the dawn of the second, Defiance to the sky our actions did beckon, The clouds showed their wrath and our team was frantic, Our tent beginning to resemble the Atlantic, “The show will go on!” we convincingly swear, The heavens pound down but the people were there, “Water!” we say, “We make this from power from this!”, With buckets and tubs farewell to puddles we kiss, To our word the people did hark. With pride by our side we bid farewell to Spark.
Re-Visiting Elutec Open Day
After a successful event in March, Dina and Chloe from UCell returned to Elutec for their open day. They started off the morning with a tour around the different racing cars that the students had built, discussing possible ideas for collaboration. This meant that the team went away knowing that they were due for a return visit in order to help out with the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) being developed by the students. The rest of the day was spent discussing with students about hydrogen energy, using the demo kits as an illustration.
Four of the UCell team made it down to the beautiful seaside resort town of Brighton to host a stall at this year’s People, Environment, Achievement (PEA) Awards at the Brighton Centre. This event saw the team set up demo kits, hand out flyers and talk to a community of environmental sustainability enthusiasts about the work at the EIL and UCL Engineering on fuel cells and hydrogen. The stand was set up right next door to Tesla’s display of its Model S Electric Vehicle which provided a great opportunity for a collaborative approach to talk to the public about non-gasoline cars and alternative energy solutions.
On December 1th 2015, the TeenTech event took place in the Copper Box in Stratford. The event was organised and supported by a range of Universities and Companies. Teenagers from secondary schools around London attended in large numbers, and participated in a variety of challenges and demonstrations set out by different companies and institutions. UCell members Bernhard, Josh, Oscar and Sohrab went to the event and held a short talk concerning hydrogen energy. They then set up a small challenge for the participating students. This required assembling the electrolyzer to split water and using the produced hydrogen to operate the vehicle and run a small race. The school with the fastest team was awarded 1 point for the TeenTech challenge.
During August UCell made their 5th annual visit to Green Man festival in Wales. Based in Einstein’s Garden the stack powered the Omni tent where science based performances were shown throughout the daytime.
While demonstrating the application of fuel cell technologies the team were able to engage the public freely due to the automated control. A great improvement made to the cell this year was the use of a Perspex box, which allowed the audience to view the internal workings of the unit during operation.
Although the weather was wet the Omni tent was powered successfully and many people joined the stall for discussions on renewable energy. The UCell team look forward to Green Man 2016!