*(Mechanics and engineering)*

*Ages 14-17*

**Designed to Thrill**John designs rollercoasters for a living, and reveals how maths has played a part in the design and construction of world famous rides like The Big One in Blackpool and The London Eye.

**Bending, Balls and Boomerangs**Hugh Hunt shows how maths can help to understand disallowed goals in football (remember Lampard in 2010?), the Dambusters bouncing bombs of World War Two and boomerangs.

**John Roberts - Structural Engineer and Rollercoaster designer**

**Hugh Hunt - Cambridge Engineer and Boomerang Expert**

**John:**

**What did you think of maths when you were at school?**

It was always one of my “best” subjects probably because I found it reasonably easy, particularly in relation to some other more subjective courses.

**Which was your favourite bit of maths at school?**

I have always preferred those parts of maths which have a direct physical representation such as geometry and mechanics.

**Is there any maths that you don’t like?**For some reason I found calculus and integration / differentiation to be difficult to deal with (even though in my later career in engineering these topics are often significant).

**Has maths ever helped you get out of a difficult situation?**On a regular basis I use engineering calculations to deal with difficult design options. Rather than relying just on a subjective opinion, I like to justify choices on the basis of either technical or financial calculations.

**Has maths ever helped you win anything?**

I used to say that I never won anything – but many years ago I attended the opening ceremony for a new building in Manchester, and the guests were asked to “estimate” (on the spot) the number of cladding panels used on the façade of the building. Rather than just guess a figure, I did a quick calculation based on the floor areas and the storey heights and came up with an estimate that was within 1% of the correct answer. It was the only answer anywhere near correct (the other guest’s estimates varied from 10 times lower to 100 times higher!) and I won two tickets to hear Luciano Pavarotti and two other Italian tenors at a concert later that week – a wonderful evening.

**What did you do at university?**

I studied Civil & Structural Engineering at Sheffield University for a BEng (Hon) degree, and then I stayed on for a further 3 years at Sheffield to study for a PhD in structural engineering. It was a requirement for entry to this course that I had an A-level in Mathematics.

**What’s your favourite number?**I am very interested in physical shape ratios and I like the fact that both

**What do you like APART from maths?**Not sure if I would ever say I “like” maths – but I need it, use it and wouldn’t be without it.

**If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?**I have travelled the world for work, but nowhere beats England. Doesn’t everyone feel that about their home country? If I had to choose somewhere else I guess it would be the USA or somewhere in Scandinavia. I don’t really like hot weather (at least not all the time).

**If you could give one maths tip to a 15 year old, what would it be?**It’s not an “either / or” situation. You can be good at maths and good at other things as well. It’s not clever to say that you are hopeless at maths – it severely limits your ability to do many other interesting things.

**Hugh:**

**What did you think of maths when you were at school?**Loved it – especially the challenging stuff – intersection of ellipses and parabolas in parametric coordinates...

**Which was your favourite bit of maths at school?**Heavy algebra – the more convoluted the better. It was like doing a puzzle.

**Is there any maths that you don’t like?**Not a great fan of statistics – it gets complicated quickly (chi-square, student-t, etc) and I never got matrices until I could see why they were useful.

**Has maths ever helped you get out of a difficult situation?**I managed to get a life-insurance salesman off my back by plotting a graph of my calculations compared with his. He never came back.

**Has maths ever helped you win anything?**Yes, but we found two solutions to a puzzle that was meant only to have one. We entered our solution but it wasn’t the one they had! Missed out on £1000.

**What did you do at university?**Mechanical Engineering.

**What’s your favourite number?**1,954,862,971.2758463

or 27.

**What do you like APART from maths?**music, clocks, boomerangs, camping, cricket, toys, TV documentaries, cycling.

**If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?**Melbourne – but Cambridge is good!

**If you could give one maths tip to a 15 year old, what would it be?**“If in doubt, don’t multiply out”

x

I use it all the time. Don’t give up maths.

**What was the most unusual place you ever gave a maths talk? **In a pub, but then I met Matt, Steve and Helen.

**What’s your favourite maths-related song?**A round on Pythagoras’ Theorem.