Hosepipe pump image for header

Lockdown Challenge: A hosepipe pump and make magnificent memes

Image credit: Neil Downie

This week’s Lockdown Challenges involve a whirling dervish hosepipe pump and an introduction to the ‘art’ of making memes.

Two very different challenges this week for engineering families. First up, Neil Downie looks at how messing around with a garden hose and bucket of water can give an understanding of water pressure – and probably water the garden at the same time. Then, if there has been enough outdoor fun, Crispin Andrews explores the world of memes with useful lessons in creativity and social media.

The IET also has a host of resources, which adults can use to engage children with the world of STEM.  

We would love it if you sent in your photos and videos of your ‘Lockdown Challenge’ efforts, as well as suggestions about how to make these challenges better and ideas for new ones. Email your contributions to tfryer@theiet.org.

Lockdown Challenge #14 - Whirling Dervish Hosepipe Pump

You’ve just spotted an island on the horizon, but you and your friend Robinson Crusoe’s boat has pranged a rock and water is gushing up through a crack. Can you make it to the island before the boat fills up and you sink beneath the waves? Or is it a one-way ticket to Davy Jones’ Locker for you and Robbie? Nil desperandum, as Boris might say, do not despair: the Whirling Dervish Hosepipe Pump can ride to the rescue and pump out your boat. Here’s how.

Take a piece of garden hose - a heavy grade is best - 2.5m to 4m long. Put a one-way ‘check valve’ on one end – not essential, but it does help quite a bit. These usually go on the tap, to stop water from the hose going back up into the house water. Now put a large bucket of water in the middle of the garden, put the valve end in the water and get that hose filled up. You can hold up the end of the hose and use a funnel and jug to fill it. Or if the hose and water are clean, suck on the end and then hold it low to siphon water in, trying not to swallow any spiders than come out with the water. Put your thumb over the end to keep the water in.

Now let your thumb off and swing the hose around, keeping the valve end in the bucket and swinging the hose as fast as you can. Let the hose rotate in your hands so that it doesn’t end up twisted. Maybe a little Vaseline or hand-cream will help the hose squirm around in your hands nicely.  With a bit of luck, your audience will get a nice cooling spray as the whirling hosepipe end passes them. You’ll be surprised how quickly the water gurgles out of the bucket.

Once you have mastered getting the Whirling Dervish flowing, try out other things with it. Can you do it without the valve? The valve is helpful, because it keeps the hose full while you get going, stopping the water going back into the bucket, but it does slow the flow.

What about a human thumb valve? Persuade one of your compadrés to join you. Your friend must hold their thumb over the end in the bucket to keep the water in once you have filled the hose. Then stand up and start really whirling. Your friend keeps their end of the hose in the bucket and then takes their thumb off underwater once you have got going. With a longer hose - standing up to get a good whirling action - and no valve, the water will go slooshing out!

The water pressure you get goes up as the square of the speed of the end of the hose, so using a longer hose and whirling faster should get a good pressure going. A hundred kiloPascals, 15psi in old money, is possible in theory.

Hosepipe pump image for body copy

Image credit: Neil Downie

Some Lockdown Challenges

  • Put a nozzle on the whirling end and then try different settings on the nozzle: can you get a spray or jet?
  • What about trying with a rotating joint on the hose? Some hose reels have them.
  • What about using a rigid tube going up from the bucket, with hosepipe at the top? That way you can stand up and get a good whirling action going without an assistant.
  • How long can you keep that hosepipe whirling? Can your friends get a ‘bucket relay’ going, continuously refilling the bucket as you whirl?
  • Can you pass the hose to a friend while still whirling and jetting water out?
  • If you and your friends have two hosepipes and buckets, you can have a Whirling Dervish Hosepipe Race: who can drain their bucket first?
  • Finally, here is a short YouTube clip of the Whirling Hose Pump. Can you make a better YouTube video?

If you liked this, you'll find lots more fun science stuff in my book The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science (Princeton University) and for lots of other things (and a free copy of the Exploding Disk Cannons book), go to www.saturdayscience.org.

Lockdown Challenge #15 – Magnificent memes

Overweight cats, spooky kid superimposed over blazing fire or celebrity heads on the bodies of dead gorillas. To us this might seem like inconsequential, inane pap, but for kids, memes are all the rage and they’re all over the internet.

For those who love them, memes are cultural shorthand. Images or videos, with or without words and sounds, that portray a particular concept or message. Often they’re ironic, contradictory or downright confusing. Usually, they’re funny (or at least they’re meant to be). Sometimes satirical. Very occasionally they’re profound. Very often they go viral, people adding their own slant to the content as they share it.

  • Traditional memes contain an expressive image and block text to convey an emotional state that is easy to understand.
  • Dank memes use absurd or out of context humour. Or distorted sound to emphasise a particular moment in a video
  • Others might make some bizarre or obscure reference to a TV or movie show, sometimes from many years ago.
  • Or compare two attributes that clash – say a photo of Mickey Mouse talking like a gangster rapper.
  • Some memes reference previous memes, previous sentence structures with the noun and verb replaced to change the meaning “I am in your (noun1) (verb-ing) your (noun 2)”
US President Donald Trump tweeted this mesmerising picture of his face photoshopped onto the body of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa back in November 2019. Is he even jumping onto the meme bandwagon?

US President Donald Trump tweeted this mesmerising picture of his face photoshopped onto the body of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa back in November 2019. Is he even jumping onto the meme bandwagon?

Image credit: Twitter

Firstly, take some subjects of interest:

  • Politicians
  • People doing silly things
  • Animals
  • Yourself

Then come up with a message that makes the chosen subject relevant to current/recent events either from the news or in the kids’ lives.

Next, find a meme maker, say Imgflip for image memes. You can just as easily make them on a word processor, save as a PDF, and turn them into a Jpeg, or other formats, using GIMP image manipulation software, and Veed for video memes. Alternatively, you can use the video editor on Windows 10 which is part of the photos app, to trim videos or create slideshows and videos.  Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie would work too.

Whichever you use you’ll choose from image/video, caption/spoken words. Some meme software will enable you to superimpose one character’s face on another character’s body.

Then it’s time to make your meme go viral. Or at least get more shares than your challengers. This is easier than you might think as many people are out there looking for this sort of thing.

Post on social media, use hashtags and put them in your first comment. Pick a searchable username. Make memes relatable by adding to captions, comments like ‘Tag somebody that should see this.” Connect with other meme-makers – when they comment on your stuff it extends the reach and vice versa. You can even do mutual shout outs to your followers. Witty or profound comments on big meme accounts, like those below, will make people click on your own stuff:




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