Students queue up to learn more during Science and Engineering week: STFC staff reach thousands
Press release: 25 March 2010
Thousands of students excited to find out more about science and engineering queued up to take part in activities at the Big Bang Science Fair in Manchester, one of numerous events held across the country during National Science and Engineering Week (12-21 March 2010).
Kennet School students with their project display at the Big Bang Fair
STFC’s four main UK sites were all actively involved in the week, with events in Edinburgh and Swindon, and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire and the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire. It is estimated STFC staff had direct interaction across the week with at least ten thousand students.
Big Bang Fair
At the Big Bang Fair there were over twenty two thousand students and teachers in total. On the STFC stand they found interactive exhibits offering fun ways to investigate among other things the wonders of light and lasers, future energy sources and the origins of the universe.
“Staff lost count of the number of bracelets made by students from special UV (ultra-violet light) sensitive beads. Through the activities, students learned how UV radiation affects the planet and us. Students were also enthralled to see how light sources are set to play a significant role in medical imaging, therapies and developing future energy sources” said Neville Hollingworth from STFC’s Science and Society team.
In addition, several hundred teachers were interested in the stands run by Research Councils UK (of which STFC is a part); they were especially keen to find out more about the STFC’s Lunar Rocks loan scheme and ways of enriching the school curriculum using resources from RCUK (Research Councils UK); and by the Cockcroft Institute who used interactive exhibits to demonstrate how particle accelerators work.
The Big Bang Fair also hosted the final of the National Science and Engineering competition which aims to celebrate achievement in science and engineering whilst inspiring young people through interactive experiences and educational programmes.
One of the top five prize winners was Adam Griffiths, for his work on modelling the ALICE (Accelerators and Lasers In Combined Experiments) photoinjector. Adam was a placement student at the Cockcroft Institute from St John Plessington Catholic College, Bebington and had his own stand showing his poster “Modelling the ALICE photoinjector electron beam using G.P.T to enhance baseline parameters” funded from the Nuffield science bursary scheme.
Also among the finalists were A-level students from Kennet School in Thatcham, Berkshire who made it through with a project they carried out at the ISIS neutron source at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), which enables scientists to explore the molecular structure of materials. Students worked with the ISIS engineers as part of the Engineering Education Scheme. Teacher at the school, Lyn Harrison, said “The students valued the chance to attend the show and made many new friends and contacts”.
Particle Physics Masterclasses
Also during Science and Engineering Week over six hundred A-level students and teachers attended the annual Particle Physics Masterclasses held over five days at STFC’s Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. They joined nearly six thousand others from 23 countries across the world to take part in the classes this month. At Daresbury Laboratory, students took part in a hands-on experiment to measure energy in ALICE, an R&D prototype for the next generation of accelerator based light sources.
At Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), students worked with data simulated for experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (the world’s most powerful particle accelerator), at CERN. They also had tours of some of the key facilities at RAL, including Diamond Light Source and ISIS. Sam Maese, a Year 12 student from Claysmore School in Dorset said; “Before I came here today I didn’t realise the scale of particle physics and just how much we still don’t know. Today has helped me to see the bigger picture. The text books just don’t convey this”.
Other events to take place across the week were a lecture in Swindon by Professor Brian Cox on ‘Exploring the Universe – from Voyager to the Large Hadron Collider’; this is part of the Talking Science series of lectures which offer the chance to hear about and discuss some of the most topical areas of science with some of the leading experts. Nearly three hundred people attended.
In addition to the Particle Physics Masterclasses at Daresbury Laboratory, over two hundred students either went to the lab or were visited by staff there who showed them the Starlab planetarium show. Meanwhile staff at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory showed students among other facilities, RAL’s space technology, including the Space test Chamber and the Mini Magnetosphere project, which taught them how we may protect astronauts from damaging cosmic ray radiation in the future.
In Scotland, The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) were involved in events carried out by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre. More than two hundred students in total took part in activities including tours of UKATC, planetarium shows and Professor Alan Heavens’ talk ‘Einstein and the Universe’.
In Didcot, the venue Cornerstones hosted ‘Café Scientifique’, a national project that brings science to the public in an informal mixture of short talks and debate. Over 30 people heard Chris Warrick from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy talk about the research carried out there.
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