Star Wars-style computer game helps Lubrizol inspire the scientists and engineers of tomorrow

A computer game where players zapped fast-moving diamonds as they appeared on the screen proved to be a hit with school students when it was used to help encourage them to explore a career in science and engineering.

The arcade-style game was set up on a stall operated by chemical company Lubrizol, which is based in Hazelwood, Derbyshire, at the East Midlands Big Bang Fair event at Derby College’s Roundhouse last month (29 June).

It was devised as an entertaining way to demonstrate how Lubrizol develops molecules for engine oil additives in order to ensure that today’s vehicles operate smoothly and efficiently.

The diamonds represented deposits which, over time, can build up behind the engines’ piston rings. These prevent the pistons from operating correctly, which reduces the engines’ performance, hence the need to “zap” them – a task performed by Lubrizol’s additives.

The game was modelled on the head-up display seen by X-Wing fighter pilots in the sci-fi film Star Wars and it was one of a number of interpretive innovations present on Lubrizol’s stall, alongside a Lego engine – complete with moving parts – and a cut-away version of a Volkswagen gearbox.

Darrell Taylor, marketing manager for Lubrizol Hazelwood, said: “We developed the computer game as a fun way to bring our work to life and to demonstrate to drivers why it’s important to buy formally approved engine oils.

“They are a different market to the young visitors to the Big Bang but it worked well on the day because it encouraged them to come onto the stall, find out what Lubrizol does and get a better idea of how chemistry and engineering combine in the real world.

“Creating installations like that is a big part of my role and it’s extremely enjoyable, especially when you see how they help young people to become inspired by STEM subjects and start to think about how they might pursue them further in the future.”

The Big Bang event was attended by students from schools across Derby and Derbyshire, who learned more about a wide variety of STEM topics, including racing car engineering, Rolls-Royce aero-engines and the veterinary care of animals.