Making waves: how engineers have applied their knowledge of light, sound and sea waves to make life better. From head-up displays, to medical ultrasound, to keeping people safe at sea.

Light waves reflect (bounce) off surfaces they hit.  An image is formed when light reflects off shiny, smooth surfaces.

Head-up display (HUD)  uses reflection to display data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. Information is projected onto a transparent, angled screen which reflects the light into the user’s eyes. The image produced looks like the information is directly in front of the user.

HUD was originally used in aircraft to enable the pilots to view information with their heads positioned up and looking forward, instead of angled down looking at lower instruments. This is where the name head-up display comes from.

Some cars are now beginning to use HUD technology to display data, like speed and hazard information, on the windscreen of the car. This means drivers will no longer have to look down, and can keep their eyes on the road at all times, making driving safer for all road users.

The activity

Time to make

  • How good is your hearing?
  • Learning about echocardiograms and how animals use ultrasound
  • Calculate the distance of an object using sound

Survival on the waves

  • Look at survival suits, and what functions they need to perform
  • Look at how harp seals survive in the harsh environment of the sea
  • Thermal resistance, and investigating insulators or survival suits