Finlay and his colleague Shahab Fazal from Manchester’s Loreto Sixth Form College, were the only two students representing Great Britain at the 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.
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 way 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 teaching establishment wishing to visually demonstrate radiation.
“I had the same teacher from Year 3 to 6 and they really encouraged me,” says Finlay, “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.”
John Caunt, Master of the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers, said: “We are delighted to have sponsored Finlay and Shahab to attend ISEF. This was a tremendous experience for them and it is excellent news that Finlay came away with third prize in his category – he was against stiff competition from the rest of the world. One of the aims of our livery company is to increase the interest in science and engineering amongst young people and supporting Young Engineers in the Big Bang Fair and ISEF is one of the many ways we do this.”