The development of the Magic Penny Trust owes much to the enthusiasm shown towards Magic Penny science outreach projects by many Brunel University students and staff.
In 1995, the University agreed to provide a loan for the manufacture of the first "Magic Penny Magnet Kit". This was, very much, thanks to the strong recommendations of Heinz Wolff, Professor of Bioengineering at Brunel, and of the then President of the Institute of Physics and 14th Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale.
The kit was to be assembled and distributed by the UK company, Loncraine Broxton, well known for the manufacture of a high quality executive toy edition of the "Newton┤s Cradle" physics laboratory demonstration.
The individual parts and materials for the kit, including the box, had already been designed and sourced by Robin Willson, then Professor of Biochemistry at Brunel, and Professor Patrick Riley, then of University College, London.
Daniel Harris, a then Brunel engineering student (later a Financial Times computing prize winner), had provided many beautiful and clear illustrations for a small book to be included in the kit. The book entitled "Investigating Magnetism", would be published by the University.
In November 1995, with the assistance of Alan Bennett, head of the University Arts Centre, the kit was launched at an exhibition in the University library, entitled "And the Penny Jumped over the Car".
The Brunel Education Liason Centre, with Malcolm Mander and Eileen Wright, organized sales of the kit directly from the University. The kit was also on sale at Harrods and in the Science Museum in London. It was also listed in a popular mail-order catalogue. By January 1996, 2,000 units of the kit had been sold. Soon after, the loan had been repayed to the University.
An extensive article entitled "Why magic pennies are the main attraction" appeared in the The Times
With the advice of Melanie Phipps in Brunel Media Services, a video showing the "Magic Penny Roundabout" was made. The roundabout was a great success at the earlier Institute of Physics International Congress. It later featured on the BBC sci-tech programme "It'll Never Work".
Brunel continues to sponsor the Magic Penny kit along with the Institute of Physics and The RoyaI Institution. The Magic Penny Trust will always be grateful to the then Vice-Chancellor of Brunel, Professor Michael Stirling and the then Secretary General, David Neave, for their support and helpful advice.
Charles Tyler, then of the Brunel Department of Applied Biology and Biochemistry and now Professor of Biology in the University of Exeter, continues along with Robin Willson and Patrick Riley as a Trustee of the Magic Penny Trust.
The Brunel University London website is at : www.brunel.ac.uk