Paper Bridge Engineering

As part of our Engineering project this year we wanted to show we could get better at engineering.  At the start of the project we had to build bridges, and ours were made from straws and did not work well or hold a lot of weight.  We did the bridge building test again to see if we had improved, but this time we were only allowed to use paper to build our bridges. The point of it was to try and engineer a bridge that could hold a calculator, at first it was quite hard to make a bridge that could hold one. Me and Rowan decided to apply what we had learned in maths about 3D shapes and  put cylinders under our bridge so that it could support the weight of a calculator, a lot of the bridges ended up being able to support a lot more than a calculator. Our bridge managed to hold 6kg in weight!  I was surprised that it could hold that much because it was just paper and tape, eventually we over tested it and wrecked the cylinders on the bridge. Everyones bridge could hold at least a calculator and some bridges could hold more, our bridge could hold the most in the class which I was surprised about. We applied our engineering knowledge to building the bridge and this showed how much we improved!

By Holly


Switch Off Earth Hour

In our school we did switch off.   That’s when you switch off your lights, WIFI and electronics  for 1 hour so that we can help the environment.  Sadly the environment is getting destroyed by global warming and only we can stop polluting the sea, sky and our earth.  I don’t wont a bad environment that is polluted. I want a good and healthy environment.  In school switch off was organised by P123.


March Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay – March Diary


A key part of what we wanted to do with our project this year was to involve other primary schools on the islands.  There are primary schools in Bowmore, Port Charlotte and Keills as well as Small Isles Primary School on the Isle of Jura.  With National Science & Engineering Week coming up we decided that this would be an ideal time to get everyone together to work on a series of engineering challenges organised by Maggie Harrison, with the support of Jo Clark and Kate Brown.


Fairytale Engineering

The first session we ran was for children working at Early/First Level – from P1-P4.  On the day we had 60 children meet together to work on some fairytale engineering.  The focus was on developing creativity and children’s ideas for problem solving.  The tasks were linked to the story of Rapunzel; first they had to build a tower for Rapunzel using mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks, exploring the strength of different shapes; then they had to work out a way for Rapunzel to escape the tower. Back in Port Ellen, P1/2/3 continued this learning, coming up with some amazingly good ideas – a glider, an elevator, a parachute, a hot air balloon and a zip wire.

At first I thought it was impossible but now I really want to do it  again – Aiden, Port Charlotte Primary.

It was so much fun. My best bit was building the tower with marshmallows – Evie, Port Ellen

I loved getting to see the other school classes. I like working in a team. It was fun getting Rapunzel out of the tower – Callum, Bowmore Primary



Primary 4/5s from Port Ellen and Bowmore Primary Schools worked together to learn how engineering can be an important aspect of disaster relief.  They thought about earthquakes and hurricanes that can devastate communities and lead to situations where emergency aid is unable to reach those who need it and how essential structures like air control towers need to withstand the powers of nature.  Their first task was to design and build a mountain rescue stretcher to transport a patient (potato) to hospital; then all groups were given the same resources to build a tower which supported a tennis ball and withstood a hurricane!

I really enjoyed building with a time limit and enjoy building models that are real things but we make them mini – Millie, Port Ellen Primary

I loved it because we had to do challenges – James, Bowmore Primary

My class were all absolutely engaged in both activities.  There were lots of discussions, problem solving and pride – Miss Brown, Port Ellen Primary.




Let’s Roll!

Older students met for a session looking at the engineering process, focussed on testing and improving.  Groups of children from different schools built rollercoasters for marbles, trying to incorporate loop the loops and still catch the marble in a paper cup.  Continuing on a marble theme, they then had to work out ways to increase the time taken for a marble to run down an inclined plane from 2.7 seconds to 10 seconds.  It was fantastic to see the children from different schools work together, completely absorbed in solving the problem. Young STEM Ambassadors from Islay High School came along to help out on the day.

I enjoyed the session and learned a lot more about engineers – Neil, Port Charlotte Primary.

It was challenging because there were lots of different activities and we had a certain amount of time to do it in and we had to stick to the resources we had – Oliver, Keills. Primary

It was fun! – Elisa, Small Isles Primary.

I want to have another engineering day with all the schools again – Charlie, Port Ellen.

The activities were fun, engaging and appropriately challenging for the group.  The children were actively involved and clearly developing their problem solving skills – Mrs Baker, Keills Primary

This session was held in Islay High School.  Maggie Harrison and Maureen MacDonald are now in discussion with the Headteacher of the High School to look at delivering a similar workshop for S3 children.


Rescuing Humpty

National Science & Engineering week could not go by without involving out Pre-5 children.  They had to find ways of rescuing Humpty so that he didn’t crack his head open getting down from the wall.  Bubble wrap and cotton wool were turned into jackets and we also built a zip-wire and engineered baskets to help him get down from the wall safely!



Date Purchases Cost
22nd February 4 copies Rosie Revere Engineer (for cluster schools) £42.15
22nd February External Hard Drive £47.68
6th March Pack cardboard tubes £18.05
  Solder £1.90
  3x Giant Lolly sticks £5.88
  12xSellotape £9.95
  3 packs masking tape £10.77
  Card £4.99
  Giant straws £18.98
  Wooden beads £4.98
  KNEX Imagination Makers Age 5-10 £30.26
  2xKNEX Imagine Age 7+ £61.02
  The Boy who harnessed the Wind £11.89
  Bioengineering Projects £12.49
7th March 4XKNEX Renewable Energy (for cluster schools) £721.80
Total Expenses    
Remaining Money   £3280.99

P6 Engineering At The High School

On the 14th March the Primary 6’s from all over the island came to the high school for an engineering day. The P7s also came. Everyone got put into groups of three by Mrs Harrison. The first one was about a roller coaster, you had to make a marble get into a cup with some type of dip or loop. Most people were successful but some weren’t. The second challenge was to put your table at an angle using bricks. You had to try and make youre marble take ten seconds to go down a table. Some people added zig zags and peices of paper to try and slow down the marble. Overall the day was good and I would go back.

Fairytale Engineering

P1/2/3 joined P1/2/3 from Bowmore Primary and P1-4 from Port Charlotte Primary for some engineering challenges based on the fairytale Rapunzel.  After a quick recap of the story, they used cocktail sticks and mini marshmallows to try and built the tallest tower that they could.  Then they had to design and build ways to help the Rapunzel to escape from the tall tower.  There were lots of ingenious designs – here is one of the ladders.

P7 Science Trip To I.H.S

On Wednesday 14th March P6/7 went to I.H.S. P6 did engineering and P7 did science. All of the primary schools from all around the island came. We did this because it would give us a chance to see what the classes are like in the high school, meet new friends from different schools and do science. The P7’s got split up into 3 groups and first of all my group was with Mrs McNaughton. When we were there we got a paper boat and filled it with boiling water and put it in a paper boat a checked the temperature. Then we got clay shapes and checked which shape would go to the bottom of the glue first and we found out that the sphere went down the fastest. The next class we went to was Mr Kitching’s class and there we were looking at crystals through a microscope. After that we went to Mrs Moran’s class and there we were doing experiments and saying whether the things we were doing were exothermic or endothermic. Overall I think that the day was fantastic and I would definitely go again.

By Rebecca Morris

Let’s Roll Engineering


P6 worked in groups with P5s and P6s from the other primary schools to hone their engineering skills.  We talked about the range of engineers and the engineering process and how engineers continually have to assess their designs and improve on them.  The children were given the challenge of building a roller coaster and then a marble run.

Disaster Engineering


P4/5 got together with P4/5 from Bowmore Primary for some engineering challenges based on disasters.  The children learned about the range of different engineers and how their problem solving abilities really come in to their own is disaster situations.  First the children had to design a collapsible, portable stretcher to transport a patient (potato) to hospital.  They then learned about the hurricane which resulted in the air traffic control tower being destroyed and having to be quickly rebuilt to allow aircraft in with aid and other supplies.  They had to build a tower of at least 30cm which would support a tennis ball in a simulated hurricane.

Engineering Art

Today on Friday 9th March Port Ellen Primary School had Elaine Johnston come and help the whole school create art. Primary 6/7 did an engineering abstract picture where we drew things that related to engineering like screws, cables and cogs. We used the art Eduardo Paolozzi as an inspiration for our work.  We then had to paint them in only black, white and yellow we were allowed to mix the colours together. Once the paint had dried we outlined the picture in black and used metallic pens to add effect and texture to our pictures. It was a lot of fun and we would like to say thank you to her for helping us.  The pictures will be on display for our year of engineering.

My HTML/JAVA Endeavour

For my Endeavour I am doing HTML/JAVA coding. I am making a webpage and I am going to use the website CodeCademy to help me. I have completed a planner covering what I will achieve in a certain space of time and answered questions like: how is this project ambitious and how this Endeavour will help me with my world of work. I have written a letter to a creator of a coding boot camp however I don’t know what I am going to do on my webpage. I am hoping that I get a reply for my letter and that it can help me with my Endeavour.

February Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay – February Diary


We’ve had a really busy few weeks ….


Wind Turbine Building

P4/5 and Kate Brown have been busy investigating wind power, moving from pinwheels to desk turbines and finally to designing floating wind turbines…perfect for an island location.  This was a fun and busy time in the classroom.  Children planned their models, thinking carefully about the design criteria and materials available.  They then decided which of their ideas were best and worked in pairs or independently to build their models.  They used their Engineering Habits of Mind to guide them and repeatedly tested, altered and improved their turbines as they went along.  Testing was done in the rowing boat in the Nursery area as it was full of rainwater.  Many models toppled over or sank but the best ideas are going to be improved further and entered into a competition.  We’ll keep you posted….

Dearbhla reported My design was very hard to make because you had to get the exact measurements.  We needed to work well in a team together. I think we need to understand where our power comes from and grown ups need to know that too.

Morgan said I enjoyed making my turbine because we got to make little models from the junk box and my model was big but it took quite a while to get the base done.  The playdough on the base was not effective.

KNEX Renewables

P6/7 and Jo Clark have been improving their engineering skills by building with the new KNEX we purchased.  Working in groups and pairs, employing teamwork skills and applying engineering habits of mind, they have built wind turbines, water wheels, solar vehicles and paddle powered cars.  P1/2/3 were given a demonstration and explanation of how they worked. Ellen said We made a wind turbine and it was made out of KNEX and when you spun the wheels one of the coils would turn into a smaller wheel and go into a generator.  The generator was connected to a wire which then turned a roundabout. I loved doing that and I am going to ask my mum if I can get KNEX at home.

CPD Event for Teachers

As part of our commitment to extend our project out form our own school Maggie Harrison and Maureen MacDonald have been in discussions with Headteachers from the other cluster primary schools to organize some shared engineering challenges.  Maggie is part of the SSERC Primary Cluster Programme and is one of three mentors on Islay and Jura who have organized a series of CPD events for teachers to improve confidence in STEM teaching.  It has provided the perfect opportunity to include some further CPD linked to our Rolls-Royce project so she shared a SSERC presentation on Engineering Thinking to cluster colleagues. Great fun was had by all. Comments from colleagues included Excellent, engaging and great fun.  Easy to apply ideas. Team Port Ellen won the best designed chair for Baby Bear!


Offsetting our Carbon Footprint

P6/7 with Jo Clark have been finding out about ways to offset our carbon footprint and improve the environment.  They discovered a search engine called Ecosia which uses revenue from it’s search ads to plant trees.  It is a social business who believe that trees have the power to make the world a better place for everyone.  Their mission is to plant one billion new trees by 2020…so far they have planted over 20 million! Did you know that every time you search the internet you produce CO2 emissions? We have put Ecosia on all the school computers and ipads so that we can research in a more environmentally friendly way and we hope all readers of this blog will use Ecosia too!


Saving Polar Bears

In P1/2/3 with Maggie Harrison, the children have been very concerned about the plight of polar bears as the ice is melting due to global warming.  We have had some very interesting discussions and the children have decided that they would like to adopt a polar bear.  They are on a mission to sell ‘Popcorn for Polar Bears.’ It was Katie’s idea;  I think saving polar bears important because they will all die if they can’t get food  and the babies can’t swim so far if the ice melts.


Large Scale Engineering in Pre-School

Children in nursery have been using some Quadro to design and build some large scale structures during Joint Sessions with P1/2; first a tent for teddy complete with tarpaulin that had to be tested to check that it was waterproof; then a hide to watch birds for the Great Schools Birdwatch. One of our dads, who works for the RSPB, was on hand for a bit of expert advice! Alison Logan is now involving the children in decision making about the sorts of building materials they would like us to buy to develop their skills further.

We have not had any outgoings this month and have £4369 remaining in our budget.

How we get electricity

P1/2/3 have been learning where electricity comes from.  We watched video clips of how power is generated  in a power station by burning coal and oil to make steam which then turns the huge turbines.  We built models to show that we understood how power gets from the power stations to our homes and why we should never play near electricity pylons.  It also struck home that this is what causes emissions that cause global warming, linked to our Who will Save us? topic.

Learning where electricity comes from

P1/2/3 are learning about electricity this term.  They are building on the work they did about energy in the first term and finding out about all the ways that they use electricity, how to use electricity safely and where electricity comes from.  They watched video clips from power stations and saw a model made of spoons that turned using the power of steam. This helped them to understand what was happening on a larger scale.  They decided to make models to show how electricity gets from power stations into their homes.

January Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay – January


The new term started on the 8th January and the new year has started with wild and windy weather here in Islay.  A perfect opportunity to see wind power in action….


Renewables Visits

Last week Primary 6/7 with Jo Clark went on a renewables trip around the Island with George Dean from the Islay Energy Trust to find out more about how our island is helping fight global warming.  They visited the community wind turbine, the biomass generator at Dunlossit house, the Solar panels at the Gaelic College and a micro hydro electric scheme at Ballygrant quarry.  Here they got to see renewable feats of engineering in their local environment.  A few days later Kate Brown and Primary 4/5 had the opportunity to do the same trip.

Robyn and Phoenix wrote We went inside the wind turbine.  it was very noisy. Mr. Dean showed us how fast the blades were going. It was going very fast for a small wind turbine. Mr. Dean talked about wind turbines and how much it cost (the wind turbine cost £1.2 million) and how it works. We learned the satellite on the wind turbine sends the information about how much electricity is produced to the company in Germany. Millie and Charlet Rose told us that The wind turbine stopped spinning at one point when we were there and the kilowatts went to zero. The wind turbine can adjust it’s blade depending on the direction of the wind and can shut down if it gets too windy.

Both classes got such a lot of learning from their visits and it helped them to understand that a sustainable energy solution can be a mix of different types of renewable energies. George Dean spoke to P4/5 about the history of the Islay Community turbine and all the considerations that were taken into account when siting the turbine.  The class enjoyed a debate about whether a wind turbine should be built at the Ard, in Port Ellen however children didn’t want one in their own back yard.

BP Ultimate STEM Challenge Competition

Inspired by their visit to the micro hydroelectric scheme, one group of Primary 7s decided to build and test their own hydro electric generator from KNEX for the BP Ultimate STEM challenge competition.  They produced a video which can be viewed on the school website at Lauren said It was a good experience to learn about all the different energy sources.  It was really challenging to build our turbine and we had detailed plans.  We did lots of testing to see which combination produced the most energy.


Energy Use in School

Continuing our learning about energy in Term1, Kate Brown’s class (P4/5) are continuing to try and persuade us all to use less energy.  The Lights-Off Christmas Disco with glow sticks was a roaring success and children thought that it was the best disco ever! Next on the agenda is the use of plastic!  Primary 6/7 have finally managed to complete the school’s carbon footprint.  We found out that the school produces 61 tonnes of CO2 a year, and 55 tonnes of that is through energy use.  The children suggested turning down the heating, turning off lights and computers on charge might help with this. Jo Clark has been in further discussions with George Read about energy meters that are suitable for monitoring energy use on this scale.  Much of our heating system is automated but we have decided that to reduce our energy consumption in the long term we need to look at the temperature in the school.


Who will Save Us?

Meanwhile, in P1/2/3 with Maggie Harrison, the children have learned in a simple way about global warming and some of the reasons for the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They were fascinated to learn that lots of gas comes from cows’ bottoms!  They thought about some of the possible solutions and Katie suggested that we eat vegetables instead of lots of meat.  So P1/2/3 are looking like they are right on trend.  The children worked in groups or with a partner to come up with ways to share their learning and explain to other children about global warming and what they could do to help.  They came up with puppet shows, film (animation) and story books which they have read and performed to the children in nursery.

Engineering in Pre-School

Children in nursery are still being encouraged to think like Rosie Revere Engineer and solve problems for themselves.  Alison Logan says that the latest mission was to clear the outside boat of ice and water.  Problem solving tasks are continuing to be incorporated into the joint sessions with P1/2/3.

We are hoping to have some local engineers in to talk to the children and Maureen MacDonald is going to get in touch with local contacts.  She is also in the process of formulating a new vision for Port Ellen – making sure that our Eco-Schools work and STEM activities have a high profile in taking the school forward.



Date Purchases Cost
20th December Mechanical Workshop Class Pack £100.00
Energy Storage Circuit (Pk30) £19.95
Solar Bag £19.99
Solar Module £26.85
Simple Machines £24.95
Assorted fans, propeller blades £13.55
Solar Panels £16.25
P & P £4.95
16th January Hire of 16 seater minibus, 2 trips £240.00
Total Expenses £466.49
Remaining Money £4411.75

KNEX Challenges

On a Tuesday at lunch time at Port Ellen Primary School Charlie, Ciaran and Aidan run a Knex Club for P4-7. We put everyone into groups of 5. Every week there is different things that get made and done like frisbees and tracks we also made a lot of houses out of knex. A lot of people came to Knex club so we had a lot of things that were made. After the Febuary break we are starting Knex club again.  We hae also been doing Knex building challenges in class.  We built a hydro electric machine, a wind powered machine and a solar car in class from Knex and even maneged to make electricity.  It was very exciting!

Wind Turbines Trip

On Monday 15th P4/5 went on a school to see the wind turbine at Castlehill. Before we left for the bus Mr Dean showed us a PowerPoint about wind turbines and how to build them. When we were at Castlehill it started to rain, everyone had to go in to the bus for shelter except from the first group that went in the turbine. We went into groups of five into the turbine. In our group was Caitidh, Christopher, Harmoni, Dylan, and Morgan. When our group was in there was a noise and the blades stopped spinning and everything turned off. It was very interesting to hear how the wind powered the turbines and generated electricity. After all the groups had went we went back in the bus and went to the Gaelic collage to see their solar panels and have our lunch.


On our school trip our class went see a wind turbine. It was quite cool with dials plus a lot more. Also we got to go inside the turbine. When we went in the door it looked very good and it looked like a big build. Mr Dean told us the turbine produced lots of electricity in kilowatts. That electrical energy is sent to the national grid for us to use. It had lots of stuff outside too like a satellite dish that sent all the information to Germany. They were lots of stuff in it and then…it stopped immediately. It stopped because it was going too fast. All other people in my class were inside too, we also did a few other things in our trip.


On Monday 15th January P4/5 went on a trip to the wind turbine up at Castle Hill. We went in groups of five to see inside of the wind turbines and George Dean was in there to and he was telling us about the turbines and about how it produces electricity. The wind turbine stopped spinning at one point when we were there and the kilowatts went to zero. But a few minuites later the speed of the turbine 3 million and something. The power of the wind makes the blades on the turbine turn which generates electrical energy. The satellite dish on the turbine sends all of information to the control system in Germany.

By Millie and Charlet Rose

On Monday 15th of January 2018 P4/5 went to the wind turbine on the High Road at Castlehill. We went inside the wind turbine, it was very noisy. Mr Dean showed us how fast the blades were going. It was going very fast for a small wind turbine. Mr Dean talked about wind turbines and how much it cost (the wind turbine cost 1.2 million) and how it works. He also talked about what you need: a crash helmet and a harness. We learned the satellite on the wind turbine sends the info and how much electric wind turbine to the company in Germany.

By Robyn and Phoenix.

The Wind Turbine

The wind turbine that we visited was up the high road at Castlehill. Mr Dean told us that the wind turbine was 63 meters tall, including the blades. We had to go up some stairs and hold onto the railing due to heavy wind. Mr Dean (the chairman of Islay Energy Trust) showed us inside the turbine and what everything does. We learned how many kilowatts and how much energy it’s producing. It also told the wind speed and how fast the blades were going. The electricity that is produced from the turbine is sent to the national grid and is then sent back to Islay.

by Harmoni & Orla

On Monday 15th we went to the Wind turbine at Castle hill. We learned that it takes 5 years to plan the turbine and 1 month to build and that it cost £1.2 million to build. It makes electricity when the blades spin round. We got to go inside and while we were inside we learned that the wind turbine dose one full circle and then it goes the other way so the cables don’t get tangled. If you’re trying to get up the ladder you have to wear a helmet and a harness incase you get hurt. There is a satellite dish that sends all the information to Germany.

Scott and Aiden

Hydro Dam Trip

Yesterday we went to Ballygrant Quarry with p4/5. We saw a waterfall that generated power to a turbine which was stored in a shed. This was called a hydro dam. We learned that the river in Ballygrant leads into a pipe which travels to the waterfall that moves the turbine to produce energy. The energy from the turbine goes to Dunlossit Estate.
Dylan and Rhuraidh

BP STEM Challenge Handy Hydro Port Ellen Entry

This term P67 have been learning about renewables and how energy is produced from different sources.  They went on a trip around the renewables projects on Islay and this inspired a group to enter the BP STEM Challenge by making and testing their own Hydro Energy device.  Watch the video they made for their entry below.