Learn by Design’s creative concepts added to new Michael Holroyd Smith Exhibition

Education Communicators, Jill Stopher Clark and Cristina Plant, had the pleasure of working with the National Tramway Museum, to lend their knowledge and expertise around STEM communication, for the brand-new Michael Holroyd Smith Exhibition at Crich Tramway Village.

Now completed and fully functioning, both communicators had the opportunity to attend the exhibition opening on Monday 25th March 2019, to see their ideas come to life.

From Idea to Creation

Acting as experts in STEM communication, Jill and Cristina worked their creative magic and designed the concepts for two interactive activities – The Gearing Challenge and Electrifying Quiz.

Both communicators worked closely with the Museum and Exhibition Developers (Image Makers) to conjure up activities that would showcase STEM history at its finest, making sure facts were accurate and the experience enjoyable for visitors.

The Gearing Challenge

The exhibit provides a teamwork (or individual) challenge, to explore the use and workings of gears. Visitors now have the chance to undertake a short gearing challenge, whereby success is rewarded by visual movement of a Michael Holroyd Smith puppet.

The challenge involves selecting and positioning gears on a wall, between two fixed points. Once the gears are fitted, a handle is turned manually by visitors, with the aim of setting gears into motion.

This engaging exhibit historically links to Holroyd Smith’s work on worm gears. It also references the importance of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try again’, using unsuccessful Holroyd Smith inventions and showing how he tried again until they became successes.

The Electrifying Quiz

This exhibit also provides a teamwork (or individual) challenge, to practice electrical circuit building whilst exploring Holroyd Smith’s conduit system for electrification of tramways.

The basis of the challenge involves plugging electrical cablesinto sockets, to complete an electrical circuit. When wires are connected in the correct positions, a series of lights are lit to indicate success, illuminating a design of a tram and Blackpool Tower.

Visitors determine where to connect the wire by answering a series of quiz questions. These questions are designed to build visitor knowledge by telling the story of Michael Holroyd Smith’s conduit system.

Knowledge at its best

Amongst the excitement of the exhibition, another of Learn by Design’s Education Communicators, Stephen Frew, noticed an interesting impact of Holroyd Smith’s inventions. A wheelchair user himself, Stephen discovered that one of Holroyd Smith’s inventions had a lasting impact on the design of wheelchair wheels. This fascinating discovery was shared with the Museum and Developers and they decided to do some research on it. Skip ahead a few months and there is now a whole panel of information on this subject, including a display of the modern wheels.

STEM History in Action

The Michael Holroyd Smith Exhibition is now open for the public to use, following the story of this great but widely unknown engineer from Halifax. A pioneer in electrical and motor car engineering, Holroyd Smith started as an apprentice at Francis Berry and Sons; a machine tool maker in Sowerby Bridge.

In 1870 he became a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and associated with Thomas A. Edison, Graham Bell and Sir Hiram Maxim. Later, Holroyd Smith became a consultant for mill design, water power, engines and investigating accidents.

He patented many ideas relating to haulage and electric traction along with making some of the earliest telephones, exchanges and phonographs in Britain.

Michael Holroyd Smith is an important figure within tramway innovation thanks to his development of the first electric street tramway which opened in Blackpool in 1885. His patented invention of an underground electric conduit system helped in this process and the patent documents can be found within the Museum’s collection.

Find out more about this incredible pioneer by visiting Crich Tramway Village.