St Mary's C.E. School, at West Derby, Liverpool invited STFC to contribute to their Aspirations Day in early July. This opportunity proved irrestible for Prof. Ilian Todorov, Computational Chemistry Group Leader at Daresbury Laboratory and member of CCP5 , who looked forward to 'STEM-thuse' the Y5 & 6 students. A keen advocate of all things public engagement and outreach, Ilian equipped himself with some suitable scientific 'props' such as 3D printed gadgets, an impressive case of meteorites and moon rock, STFC brochures on astronomy to whet the young students' interest and imagination, and took himself back to school to talk to them about science and technology.
Ilian said 'Students were timid at the beginning but became really excited to find out about the wide range of scientific research and technology instrumentation we carry out at our facilities. They were thrilled to see videos of simulations as a demonstration that we could 'shine theory' at matter in the same manner we shine light under the microscope to see micro structures. It might have been difficult to convey that we can shine more than just light - atoms and smaller subatomic particles at matter with our other bigger instruments. However, their enthusiasm became obvious as soon as I shone my mobile phone torch at a slice of a meteorite that was partially semi-transparent. A rain of questions followed such as how we knew a space rock's age and where it came from (Moon or Mars). Also, being able to look and examine closely the meteorite samples was very, very exciting for them. Similarly, touching and playing with the 3D printed gadgets was a popular activity. They marvelled at the ability to compose multi-layered materials and intricate structures such as plastic jewellery, car wheels and last but not least the sophisticated digital sun dial.'
Meanwhile, further North over in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds, Daresbury's Public Engagement team, through the contacts of Dr. Andrey
Brukhno (of the Computational Chemistry Group and member of CCP5) attended an Arts
& Science Community Festival. This was aimed at
families and students from supplementary education centres, coordinated by
Oceann Sm&Art (Russian Supplementary School). Supplementary centres are
community based initiatives that provide additional educational support for
children who attend mainstream schools from ethnic minorities. They are geared
towards specific languages and help reinforce subjects such as art and science
in a creative and fun environment.
Andrey, who is the secretary of the Board of Trustees (of Oceann Sm&Art) and his son hosted a stall showcasing arduinos, with others presenting biology through a microscope, electricity and electrical circuits, alongside the big spectacle - the inflatable planetarium. The students were mostly over-awed by it leaving comments such as 'amazing because the sun is enormous', 'love it', and 'I learnt a lot' to the more considered 'interesting but I want to know more about earth!'.
It seems that while some of us reach for the stars, others have their feet firmly planted on the ground!