Explore your Universe: Atoms to Astrophysics
This national education project is developed by the UK Association of Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and experts from the National Space Centre and Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.
The project aims to provide high-end equipment, national staff training academies, flexible workshop resources, scientist training and other support to enable UK science and discovery centres and museums to involve their visitors in cutting-edge programmes related to the physical sciences.
Phase 1 of ‘Explore your Universe: Atoms to Astrophysics’ has been running over the past two years and has been a great success. 156,880 children and adults have taken part at ten science and discovery centres and two STFC facilities over the past year. Over 50,000 participants met space scientists, physicists, engineers and technicians with their families or schools. They discussed all sorts of science topics as well as how they got into their careers.
Scientists and engineers from STFC facilities and UK universities were also involved, ensuring the quality of the science. Central to the programme is an exceptional set of equipment and informal learning resources which have now been well tested, fine-tuned and fully evaluated.
In Phase 1 we selected, trained and supported ten UK science and discovery centres to run a range of cutting-edge physics and engineering schools workshops, family shows and meet-the-expert events. The equipment we delivered to them included a solar telescope, a cloud chamber, a thermal imaging camera, meteorites, levitating magnets (using superconductors), an iPad pre-loaded with lots of great apps and even a mini-demonstration of a particle accelerator using a Van de Graaff generator, along with a handbook and website detailing a large range of experiments that could be carried out by the science centres.
The independent evaluation by King’s College London examined the impact on the first 3,883 students and 369 teachers who took part in the workshops, making it the UK’s largest multi-centre dataset of the impact of informal science learning.
One notable finding was this physics programme had been very successful in inspiring interest in both girls and boys in equal measure. 56% of girls and boys aged 10-13 said the workshop made them feel more interested in studying science, and 41% said it had made them more likely to consider a career in science. This effect was found after just one hour of experiments and discussions. This programme fully supports the Government’s new initiative to get more girls into physics and engineering and can be used flexibly to support this and other widening participation initiatives.
Excellent and innovative science is vital to the UK’s future economic success as well as our health and well-being. This project aligns with many organisations’ recognition of the importance of nurturing the curiosity and inventiveness of our young people, and especially in increasing young peoples’ awareness of the fantastically inspiring and fruitful careers open to them, should they continue their science and mathematics studies.
More recently a second phase of the project has been funded and a further ten science centres and university outreach teams will be trained and supported to deliver activities related to the project. Jodrell Bank will continue to work with the project partners and contribute to the required training and support.
Being part of the project team for Explore your Universe has allowed the Education team at Jodrell Bank to develop many activities for schools and the public which would not have been possible otherwise. An infra-red camera and a Van de Graaff generator are regularly taken into schools which would not have been possible without the project. A week of activities which were all part of the project were delivered in Summer 2013 and a science show was written and performed in Autumn 2012 as part of the project which proved to be very popular. The resources from this project continue to be used regularly in both the schools and public programme.