Imperial’s new Saturday Science Club inspires White City families
Researchers across the College engaged local families in science in a new engagement format for Imperial.
Designed and coordinated by Andrew Brooks, programmer and public engagement practitioner for Imperial’s White City campus, Saturday Science Clubs engaged local families every Saturday for six weeks. The same families returned each week to develop their learning through fun science-themed activities led by an Imperial scientist.
“It’s really rewarding to engage with families,” says Andrew. “You can provide great experiences that a family will remember for a long time and you can help meet their needs to do something positive as a family. “
The Audience Engagement team were delighted to try this form of longer term engagement. By working with the same families every week, the team was able to form “a very strong bond with our local community and lead a deep, high quality engagement,” says Andrew.
The sessions were designed to inspire and fascinate, each week covering a different scientific topic ranging from chemistry – explored using bath bombs – to cutting edge nanotechnology explored using Lego!
How can we make our vehicles greener? Families were invited to put their creativity and ingenuity to the test during this session exploring the decarbonisation of transport.
Participants were invited to use their imaginations to design and build a vehicle of their choice that not only ran on “clean” energy, but was also built from household waste. The session emphasized the multidisciplinary approach required to develop sustainable solutions to climate change.
Researcher Louise Oldham, who presented her work during this session, took the opportunity to share her passion for science. “It was helpful learning to explain my research in a different context and with a different audience, and it made me more aware of the importance of understanding where my research fits.”
“I am a science researcher and I love science and I want to share this with children and inspire them.”
Can we trust what we see?
Researcher Sadra Sadeh joined the families to explore how the brain allows us to see in 3D, calculating information from the eyes. The session explored the idea that it is our vision that defines how we experience the world, despite the fact that our 3D vision is an illusion that our brain calculates in our head. If what we are seeing is not really real, can we trust our senses?
Families studied optical illusions before creating their own 3D glasses and even testing them out while watching a short 3D movie.
Bath time science
Bursting with fun and chemistry, the Bath Bomb Workshop showed kids and parents how science can improve bath time. Helena Dodd, a doctoral student in chemical biology, gave families a first glimpse of the excitement of chemical reactions in everyday life. Families were given recipes, ingredients and step-by-step advice to create their own colorful and scented bath bombs to take home.
The wonder of plants
Plant science is vital in all areas of our lives, from food to medicine, and this session provided the opportunity to explore the incredible diversity of plant life with plant scientist and researcher Catherine Mansfield. From the local flora of London to the formidable carnivores, children, parents and caregivers have had the opportunity to examine a variety of plants using printing techniques to create works of art. Families were even able to take home their own Venus fly trap.
The tiny but powerful world of nanotechnology
This session on design, coding and technology, led by Imperial physicist Jess Wade, focused on the creative skills needed by scientists. It was also a celebration of Jess’ new book – Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small – Every Family Leaving with a Signed Copy.
During the session, families first explored the nanoscale, before designing Lego nano-robots that could be used for healthcare / medicine. As they built the robots, families were encouraged to think about what a nano-health robot might be able to do (check blood sugar, send alerts to the body), and then build it up. from Lego and code it accordingly. The participants then took their robots to a giant cell (made of plasticine on a table) where they tested their robots to see what worked.
The Saturday science clubs ended with a session that recalled all the families had learned, creating posters in the process. Would you like to know more about how to inspire families with science? Imperial’s public engagement team has put together a handy resource as part of its engagement toolkit to help you engage every generation in your work. Find out how to plan and run insightful workshops with maximum impact for families here.
Photograph by Brendan Foster