BIG e-news:
Summer 2014 edition – Issue 29

As the weather warms up, so does conference activity for our annual BIG Event later this month. Registrations have been flooding in and attendance looks to be our highest ever so we are just a few places away from capping registrations for our 3-day event in Oxford. Over a third of delegates will be attending for the first time this year and we look forward to welcoming them all into the bosom of our blossoming community!

We are also delighted to be able to announce the winner of this year's Josh Award. You will hear it in this newsletter first since this is the first year that BIG has partnered with Manchester Science Festival to administer the award.

Sarah Vining

Josh Award Winner 2014 Announced!

You heard it here first.... Dr Sarah Bearchell from Sarah's Adventures in Science is the worthy winner of this year's Josh Award.

Sarah is planning to develop workshops for 3-11 year old children with Special Educational Needs and take them directly into special schools. The most able Year 6 children discuss states of matter but all learn new language, observe the processes and love the experience. Described as 'Awe and Wonder', the session is called "S.E.N.sory Science: Cool Clouds".

Set up in the memory of Joshua Phillips, former Chair of BIG, the Josh Award is an award established to recognise and support up-and-coming talent in science communication. The award provides the opportunity to become the science communicator in residence at the Manchester Science Festival 2014, developing and delivering a new project or event while showcasing best practise in the field of science communication. Sarah will receive support to nurture her development in the field and her involvement in the Manchester Science Festival from both the Festival team and us here at BIG.

Pack your bags for the BIG Event

Rachel Mason, BIG Event Organiser

Some of you get ever so excited about the BIG Event – I know because you tell me so. Every year, about six weeks before the BIG Three Days I start to get lovely little emails from you asking where to stay (who’s staying where), what to bring, how to get to, and some just to say hello. Some to apologise for forgetting to register (some of you have still forgotten) and some to ask if you can bring your partner, child, pet (yes, depends, and no). 

But what to bring? And what NOT to bring? If you’ve got any talent, bring your musical instrument/voice. Wednesday Night at the BIG Event will be in the pub as usual but it’s Open Mike Night at the Cape of Good Hope in Oxford and Lee the organiser is pleased to have A FEW of us take a slot and perform. He’s happy to mix in a bit of STEM-related stand-up but it’s his gig so his rules apply. Bring your gift for wit and tune and go with the flow. (Not much talent required.) 

Flame throwers. Blow torches. Fire tornados. Don’t bring those. Fire of any sort will not be permitted in any demos, shows, workshops, sessions this year, sorry. We have no facility to disable sensors and alarms at the Natural History Museum so please no sneaky flames.

Vehicles. Bring them but don’t park them. Parking at the museum is very restricted but there is plenty of excellent park-and-ride in Oxford and there is pay-at-meter parking on the streets around. Not outlandishly expensive. You can drop off kit at the museum by arrangement; let me - Rachel - know by email. 

Posh outfit. Optional. The Best Demo Competition & BIG Event dinner on the Thursday night is my only ‘going out’ in the year so I like to fling on a frock. I don’t like to be the only one but lots of folks like to Not Bother. Up to you entirely. 

Programme and delegate list can be downloaded here . Nope. Don’t need to print it – we’ll give you a shiny one when you get there. All you need to do is turn up at Oxford University Museum of Natural History 23-25 July and interesting things will just happen. As a direct result of you being there. If you have a question, drop me a line 

A Taste of Medicine

Carol Bowsher, Learning and Access Officer, The Infirmary, University of Worcester

The Infirmary opened its doors in 2012 and has since engaged a range of students in a wealth of science-related programmes. 

It is one of two medical museums in Worcestershire, alongside the George Marshall Medical Museum. Medical collections can provide a great way for students to access science-related curricula. Popular programmes for primaries centre around how the body works from looking at muscles and skeletons to healthy living, especially focusing on the food triangle. At secondary level programmes in infectious diseases, vaccination, the body and diagnosis, and measurement in health have all been taken up. Whilst biology has often been the main driver, visits have been used for combined science studies and mathematics. Object handling is frequently associated with history, but at The Infirmary collections are used equally for looking at scientific principles to understanding advancements in technology. This can range from looking at equipment that works on the principles of vacuum and suction, from syringes to breast pumps, to considering the impact of materials in object design, enhanced capability and function. Within the exhibition area itself students may try their hand at keyhole surgery and see the inter-related advantages of non-invasive surgery in terms of minimising risks from infection to speeding up recovery, alongside exploring germ theory and developments to combat disease.

Evaluation has given insight as to how medical collections may impact on knowledge, skills, attitudes and aspirations:

Knowledge: "I have learned how to gage the effectiveness of medical equipment", "I have learned about the beginnings of pain killers", "I have learned about past medicines and how they evolved into our modern day medicines", "I know what anaesthetics are and what equipment is used for", "I learnt about how technology of medicines has developed i.e. antiseptics" (Secondary Science) 

News skills: "Observation skills and looking closely in understanding how things were used" (Secondary Science)

Changed Attitudes: "Yes. It made me feel privileged", "It helped me understand many different aspects of surgery and medicine" (Secondary science), "In viewing objects once used in health care settings was enlightening to see how tools have changed" (FE Health and Social Care Unit)

 Support of Studies: "I have now acquired further knowledge into public health which I can utilise within my college assignment on the particular unit of public health" (FE Health and Social Care Unit)

Aspirations: "Well. I am considering becoming a pathologist" (Secondary Science) 

If you would like to find out more about work at the Infirmary contact me

The FAB kids outreach project

Mark Edwards, School for Policy Studies - University of Bristol

FAB Kids is a recently developed school outreach project based on the importance of healthy lifestyles. It’s a free, fun and educational workshop aimed at encouraging children to think critically about their lifestyle choices (nutrition and physical activity in particular). The project is being delivered by research staff in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences (ENHS), School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol. 

The FAB Kids workshop consists of three activity stations, focusing on Food, (Physical) Activity and Bodies respectively. The hands-on and engaging activities are aligned with the National Curriculum to ensure that the workshop compliments what is taught elsewhere in school. 

Food: The workshop takes a different approach to looking at 'food'. The focus is on essential and everyday consumption that children often choose themselves, drinks. This station considers the sugar content of a variety of drinks that children consume. Children do hands-on tests looking at the sugar content of drinks.

Activity: Physical activity is central to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The activity station considers the impact of physical activity on the heart. The interactive activities encourage children to think critically about the importance of physical activity for their heart. The effect of activity on the heart is assessed through fun and active experiments.

Bodies: The Bodies station combines the food and activity themes by exploring the impact of lifestyle choice on various parts of the body. This one-of-a-kind fun group activity has children racing against the clock to complete the task.

The workshop is being offered to year 5 and 6 classes across Bristol and the surrounding area. FAB Kids combines the themes that are at the forefront of our research – nutrition, physical activity, and bodies – and incorporates exciting findings from our studies. 

Where did the idea come from? FAB kids stems from a workshop on dinosaurs Bristol dinosaur project. – if you’re an aspiring palaeontologist wondering what dinosaur, it was Thecodontosaurus antiquus (‘Theco’ for short). A Public Engagement course so inspired ENHS staff that they went away and began work on a healthy lifestyles workshop. 

At the heart of the FAB workshop are two principles: fun and education. First and foremost, FAB is an educational workshop that builds on the expertise of ENHS staff and the findings of our research. Many experts – academics, research staff, school teachers, and outreach officers - were involved in the development and refinement of the workshop. Every effort was made to ensure scientific rigour and satisfy elements of the National Curriculum. On top of the expert guidance, we knew the workshop had to appeal to children. As such, the messages we want to leave are practicable and enjoyable.

3-2-1-Ignition* goes out and about...

Rick Hall, Director of Programmes, Ignite!

We all in the BIG community have a special interest in sparking the interest and curiosity of families and their communities. (And before we go too much further, apologies for the unavoidable duplications of ‘interest’ in this note.) 

I attended a very interesting talk at ECSITE about exciting interest and how to convert contextual interest to something personal to the individual. So cheers and acknowledgements to Alexander Moss and Amy Seakins at KCL for reporting on their fascinating research. It got me thinking about how we in Ignite! with our pop-up and portable 3-2-1-Ignition* programme try to grow curiosity out of interest.

For those of you unfamiliar with 3-2-1-Ignition* it’s a pop-up shop for STEM, which we piloted in 2012, took on tour to festivals, conferences and community celebrations in 2013, and ran again thanks to Kickstarter crowdfunding in May 2014. Our aim is to provide a platform for scores of partners to do their widening participation thing, but also to take STEM activities to places where people actually go, like shopping malls between the poundshop and the bus station, and with a ‘yes you can get involved, this is for the likes of you, try it, it’s fun’, openness. We believe it builds science capital in families (to borrow ASPIRE’s research terminology). 

We use science busking pretty relentlessly to draw people in – exciting their interest with activities many will be familiar with; the metal cooling rack big-bong, the slinky Star Wars sound effects, the wire frame that turns your hands to marshmallows, plus Pulfrich and Stroop. We then invite our newly interested friends over to the Jars of Curiosity and the Smells of Memory, and without the slightest hint of mind manipulation, their curiosity is aroused. What follows is then all about conversation; their ‘interest’ in science, how long since they studied science, and what are they curious about. Indeed, put simply, ‘If you could speak to any scientist, from any field of science, living or from history, what is the one question you would like to ask them?’ And this is sometimes where inhibition overcomes their curiosity – the challenge is too profound, we load it with too much significance – possibly.

Pretty interesting and eclectic, and displaying no shortage of curiosity. Our challenge is to respond; and Ignite!’s suggestion is to take these eclectic lines of very personal enquiry, and with the help of scientists-in-residence, develop them into a new kind of Citizen Science. If you would like to know more, come and see us at the British Science Festival when we will be in Birmingham’s fab new library on Saturday 6 September. In the meantime, what is YOUR question: ‘If you could speak to any scientist, from any field of science, living or from history, what is the one question you would like to ask them?’

Discovering CREST Discovery

Ellie Chambers, CREST Officer

Many recent reports have extolled the virtue of practical investigations as a learning mechanism, which can be tracked back to the SCORE ‘Practical Work in Science’ report produced in 2008. The recent proposals by Ofqual, the exam regulator in England, to end assessed coursework in biology, chemistry and physics A-levels also had the scientific community up in arms. 

Many universities have introduced problem based learning (PBL) modules in foundation and first year courses, to ensure students have the practical and creative skills required to complete their degree and build a successful career.

It is clear that there is a positive attitude towards the continued inclusion of practical investigation skills as a vital part of higher education. It is odd, therefore to think that a large number of UK schools are not supplementing their curriculum offerings, or being encouraged to invest in extra-curricular STEM activities, given that these are apparently key skills.

Of course, there are barriers to schools engaging in extracurricular activities, including but not limited to cost, staff time and equipment. However another, seemingly very difficult to overcome barrier seems to be confidence within staff to take on the supervision of projects, and to let the students have a level of control over the direction of their project. 

During the CREST expansion project (2009-2014) teachers regularly told us that a supporting and empathetic hand was more effective than monetary/equipment based assistance in helping a school take the first steps in extracurricular project work. This kind of support is time consuming and expensive, so we aimed to develop something that would allow an easier transition into our award scheme and let students gain those essential skills. 

Our solution: The CREST Discovery Award is a 5 hour project introducing students and teachers to student led practical investigation. It has been trailed with a number of schools who had not previously engaged with STEM projects outside of the curriculum, and from overwhelming positive reviews it was then launched in September 2013. Since the launch over 6083 students have taken part in the activity.

Discovery has a simple framework which allows the teacher or adult to set the confines of a problem and then allow the students to stretch their creative and problem solving skills within those bounds. 

The CREST Passport gives a simple to access structure to the activity and therefore the students learning of good project process. It highlights self-management, problems solving and research within seven key areas that relate to the criteria of the award. The projects can be created by the teacher following our criteria, or (more usefully) linked to existing or bespoke created day activities. The criteria and passport structure can be easily applied to other activities that take part in a day, adding a unique certificate element for work undertaking, or helping to form emerging activities into a clear and coherent structure. 

To provide a diverse and engaging range of activities to use, CREST has linked with the IET, London Transport Museum, STEMettes, Practical Action, National Science & Engineering Week and Rotary International; a wide range of partners from resource providers to museums and science centres.

Liz Poulter from the London Transport Museum commented, “The CREST Discovery Award has been a fantastic addition to our Museum session. The simple framework provides a clear foundation to align our activities, which in itself enhanced our session. By the end of the day, pupils and teachers are able to articulate not only the inspiration and excitement from visiting the Museum, but also the skills and knowledge they have gained by following this structure.”

The process for linking existing activities or developing new offerings with CREST is relatively straight forward and the benefits to activity deliverers making this link are numerous. We will be delivering a session at the BIG conference in July called ‘Digging deeper in a day’, hearing why linking with CREST has been so positive from some of our current partners.So book your place now and come and see us in action, or if you think you have an activity that could benefit from linking with CREST do get in touch with us.

Ten Years a Rocketman

Jon London, Out of This World Learning

This year is a very special year for me – November will mark 10 years as an independent, full time science communicator. I'm quite glad I didn't know when I started that this is impossible, and that “you can't make a living out of science communication”(TM), but it seems to have worked out OK.

Over the years workshops have come and gone, except for the two biggies, Rocket Making, and, er... Big Rocket Making! I started off with a couple of TEP air rocket launchers, and since then they've been re-sealed, re-built several times, upgraded and made to launch air rockets over two football fields. I wish I'd kept a count of how many rockets they've launched, but it has to be over 50k each; I also discovered the joys of silent air compressors – a must if you have 200 pupils and your legs are going to give way from pumping!

The big rockets are a workshop I developed that uses Estes rocket motors as the only specific rocket component. The body is a 2” poster tube, and some cardboard boxes. People think I'm a nutter for even attempting it but every few weeks I have a Y5/6 class designing, building and test firing scratchbuilt rockets... in a 2 hour workshop. My personal best was at a school in Skegness, where we really went to town... The whole school came down to the beach where we launch our rockets an estimated kilometre out to sea. You know you're doing something right when you have to get a NOTAM for a primary school workshop!

One day I might leave rocketry behind, but they are firm favourites with the schools I work with. This year is also the year I discovered BIG, and I'm very excited for the conference. It's lonely being a travelling rocket man, and I'm looking forward to finding out other presenters' experiences of this totally barmy way to make a living!

Do you have an Ingenious idea?

Manisha Lalloo, Royal Academy of Engineering

The Royal Academy of Engineering is looking for new projects to fund through Ingenious – our grant scheme for creative public engagement with engineering projects. 

If you have an imaginative idea that could help engineers to communicate their expertise and passion for engineering to a wider audience, we want to hear it. You could be an engineer interested in running your own project, or a science and engineering communicator keen to explore ways to provide public engagement training and opportunities.

From comic books with engineering heroes to robotic workshops at zoos, Ingenious has funded over 140 projects to date, providing opportunities for over 2,000 engineers to take part in public engagement activities. All of our projects involve engineers in the development or delivery of projects, so they have the opportunity to gain skills, knowledge and experience in public engagement, and bring engineering to the heart of society.

Ingenious’ aims are to inspire creative public engagement with engineering projects; stimulate engineers to share their stories, passion and expertise in innovative ways with wider audiences; develop engineers’ communication and engagement skills and to create debate between engineers and people of all ages to raise awareness of the diversity, nature and impact of engineering.If you have an Ingenious idea, apply now for funding from £3,000 up to £30,000. Further information can be found on the Ingenious website. The closing date for applications is 22 September 2014.

BIG People

Name: Michaela Livingstone

Job: Special Projects Manager at the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC)

A typical day at work consists of Making projects happen! This can be through a variety of things, be it writing things, meeting with people, producing all sorts of documents, assessing budgets and schedules and reacting/planning as required.

What got you into this career? The love of learning and science, and wanting to share that. I do so indirectly these days, but I enjoy the challenges of pulling people and things together, and trying to make something tangible happen from it all. 

What is the best thing about your job? The people and the travel! I work with people all around the UK, and internationally, too. Meetings are a pleasure usually, everyone is genuinely so lovely and you can tell that most people are as passionate as I am, which is great

.... and the worst? Sometimes the people and the travel! Sometimes I just want to spend a week in my own bed. Sometimes meetings aren't a joy. Thankfully this is very rare. And besides, it's all part of the challenge :)

What is your favourite meal? Pizza. With anything on top. And a glass of something bubbly wouldn't go amiss.

What is your favourite smell? Summertime, fresh, fragrant air on a beach, or forest, or somewhere relaxed and outdoors!

What talents do you possess? I can paint things on my nails? Does that count?

What talents would you like to possess? I would like to have a talent for music - as in playing instruments. I used to be very musical as a kid but got a bit lazy about it when I was at uni, and regret it now! I still have my guitar though, so there's still time to pick it up again.

Which actor do you think should play you in the film of your life? Zooey Deschanel. Mainly because I like her.

Which living person do you most admire and why? Ooh difficult. This changes a lot because I have a lot of admiration for people who stand up for what they believe in - and there are, fortunately, lots of people like this to admire!

Most beautiful place on earth? Cornwall! Especially round the coast on the Lizard.

What is your Motto for life? ‘Just Do It’ – stolen from the well-know sports brand – useful for whenever

With best wishes from the BIG Executive 2013-14:

James Piercy, Chair
Bridget Holligan, Vice Chair
David Porter, Treasurer
Ashley Kent, Secretary
Ben Craven, Ordinary Member
Lucy Moorcraft, Ordinary Member
Rachel Mason, Event Organiser
and Sarah Vining, Administrator

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