Summer of Science

Over 600 girls and boys from secondary schools in Kent had the chance to participate in science, technology and engineering events throughout the months of June and July at the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus. Directed and hosted by a team of University ambassadors, academics and postgraduates from the School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA), pupils enjoyed the opportunities of working alongside practising technologists and engineers whilst gaining invaluable hands-on experience. It is hoped such pupils will become inspired to create the next generation of scientists for the future.

Totally Ballistic, aimed at Year 9 pupils, gave students the chance to use and relate different areas of science and technology (including ICT and Maths), experience teamwork, and also appreciate how science might be portrayed on a TV news programme. The event was centred on a ballistic competition where points were awarded for accurately hitting a target designed by an adjudication team. The launcher was controlled by a microprocessor system constructed by an electronics team. The microprocessor was programmed by a software team, and the ballistic trajectories were calculated by a ballistic (maths) team. The day’s activities were then recorded and edited by a journalism team.

SPECTRA, aimed at Year 10 pupils studying ICT and Physics in the areas of Computer Engineering and Electronics, provided students with the chance to use and relate different areas of science and technology and experience teamwork by working on four activities concerning the uses of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (a subject relating specifically to the GCSE science syllabus). The event used a code cracking scenario where teams obtained clues to win a competition and defeat the evil SPECTRA organisation. Four activities involved using an Infrared camera in the dark, a radio controlled car in a maze, optical fibre to transmit a code and Ultra Violet light to detect hidden instructions. When all four tasks were completed, the final solution was transmitted to the adjudicators using the Infrared link from a Picaxe processor board.

EDA also delivered four sessions of Science Extravaganza, part of the Sciences@Kent initiative. These enabled students the opportunity of experiencing a number of practical activities ranging from digital media workshops focused on character facial animation, modelling a futuristic hovercar and animating a walk-cycle of a high-poly Mechanoid, as well as Fibre Frenzie, an engineering activity centred on practicing simple communication protocols by sending information manually through optical fibres. Responses received to-date from schools and pupils alike demonstrates that science continues to be a fun and fascinating subject for all ages.

The Solar Car Challenge Competition, aimed at pupils aged 13-14 involved schools’ teams competing in a final rally of solar powered cars having previously spent the last six weeks researching, designing and testing their prototypes with guidance from University ambassadors. Each team had customised and adopted their model to make it unique in style and appearance. Professional engineers judged the cars in three different competitions: speed, performance on an incline and design innovation, with prizes being awarded to the winners of each category. Pupils gained experience of team building, problem solving skills, a practical application of science and technology as well as insight into solar power and the exciting world of design and engineering. The final competition was not only a great success but a fun and engaging activity for young engineers of the future to expand their scientific knowledge as well as learn about renewable energy concepts.
Such events provide a valuable insight into the worlds of science and technology for young minds and inspire pupils to view science in a whole new way.