Sky’s the limit for University of Chester student and high-flying Buck


Staff reporter (Chester Standard)

A BUDDING boffin at the University of Chester has developed a ground-breaking device that could “change the face of falconry”.

Working with a Gyrfalcon called Buck, Maisie Snowdon, 21, has worked out how to harvest the energy used by the bird’s flight and turn it into storable energy for a battery.

She was inspired by the falconers at Chester Cathedral who have long complained about the poor battery life in tracking devices that monitor birds of prey.

Her resulting dissertation was so impressive that she has now been shortlisted for a prestigious Telegraph STEM Award 2017.

Tommy McNally, falconer at Chester Cathedral Falconry and Nature Gardens, said: “We are delighted to have worked closely with Maisie on developing a new technology related to bird tracking. Maisie has some fantastic ideas and we believe her product is ground-breaking and could change the face of falconry.

“We look forward to seeing how she progresses and wish her the very best of luck in the competition.”

Maisie, a third year mechanical engineering student, researched the use of a piece of equipment called a piezoelectric energy harvester on a device the cathedral falconers use to track their falcons.

Piezoelectricity is the creation of an electric charge in a material that is put under mechanical stress.

Maisie, from Great Ayton in North Yorkshire, created a lightweight device to attach to Buck that would convert energy used from the movement of his tail.

When Buck flexes the piezoelectric material a small electric charge is created that can be stored.

Explaining the process, Maisie said: “I wanted to see if it was possible to harvest energy from the bird’s movement while flying. The falconry at the cathedral kindly lent me one of its radio transmitters to use in my experiments. I also worked with one particular Gyrfalcon – ‘Buck’ – chosen due to his flight patterns, because he is a cliff bird.

“I attended a show where they flew Buck so that I could record his flight with the existing tracker and estimate the frequency and amplitude of his tail movements for energy harvesting.”

Now in its fourth year, the Telegraph STEM awards encourage the most talented and ambitious UK science, technology, engineering and mathematics under-graduates to push themselves beyond their degree syllabuses and impress some of the biggest names in the industry.

Entrants have the chance to win a £25,000 cash prize, plus a bespoke mentoring programme.

In order to become a finalist, Maisie had to submit a 10 slide presentation about her idea within the Energy Harvesting category.

She was shortlisted from 20 other candidates and invited along with four others to London to present their ideas to two judges from Semta, the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation responsible for engineering skills for the future of the UK’s most advanced sectors.

Yu Jia, Maisie’s dissertation supervisor said: “I am excited but not surprised by Maisie progressing to the final. Her work has been exceptional on all fronts, factoring in both technical development and feasibility for the end-user application. Her work may have laid the foundation to develop a potential technology disruptor in the bird tracking industry.”

After impressing the judges in the semi final, Maisie is now a finalist and will be travelling back to London for the final on tomorrow where she will present her idea again and attend a formal lunch. The winner will be announced on June 16.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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