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Catastrophic Failure!

In December 2015, Warwick Arts Centre hosted six nights of fantastic new ideas, explosions, experiments and answers to questions taxing the University of Warwick’s finest minds, with WMG’s Dr Steve Maggs taking a starring role, assisted by Shaheen Charlwood.

Dr Maggs presented ‘Catastrophic Failure,’ an exploration of science behind materials and their mechanical properties, looking at why different materials behave in different ways.

In the lecture, Dr Maggs explained how, in his part-time role as Chief Material Scientist at Santa's Magical Research Laboratory in Lapland, he was working on a new lightweight low carbon sledge for Santa! Dr Maggs and Shaheen demonstrated material properties such as strength, stiffness, hardness and toughness with a series of demonstrations. Dr Maggs then explained material failure and how a misunderstanding of properties was responsible for the Titanic disaster. He demonstrated how steels can suddenly go brittle when cold by using a Charpy impact testing machine. He then went on to show how knowledge of failure can be used in a positive way by opening a bottle and a can of beer on stage. He also showed how this is used to save lives in racing cars and road cars, and finally Dr Maggs explained how this knowledge was used in the new Santa sledge prototype too.

Each of the lectures attracted around 400 people and, after 'Catastrophic Failure,' Neale Grant and Philip Sellars from the Sustainable Materials Group entertained guests in the Arts Centre foyer with the 'egg drop tower'. This was the first outing for this new piece of outreach equipment (funded by the Manufacturing GRP fund which is managed by Kerry Kirwan) and based on Ben Wood's highly successful Royal Academy of Engineering masterclasses. The new kit, designed and built by WMG technicians including Dave Cooper and Carl Lobjoit, can easily be transported to schools and events for outreach work. The kit demonstrates material properties and engineering trade offs between cost, weight and environmental impact, by using different type of waste materials to build crash structures to protect a dropped egg.

Catastrophic Failure

Catasrophic Failure

For more information on WMG's Outreach Programme contact