Project: Summer Science Roadshows 2015 and 2016: Cambridge Hands-On Science (CHaOS)
Amount awarded: £8,000
Timing: July 2015 to July 2016

Objectives

  • Reach at least 5,000 people during the roadshows in both 2015 and 2016, and make a positive impact on their views about science and technology
  • Recruit 5-10 engineers for the roadshow each year, and train them in science communication
  • Recruit two engineers to the CHaOS committee each year, and develop two or more new experiments for each year of the grant duration

Audiences

For the Summer Roadshow 2015, 5 engineers took part including 1 postgraduate participating in active research. For the Summer Roadshow 2016, 6 engineers took part, including 2 PhD students and 1 masters student, each participating in active research. The roadshows visited areas across the country where access to science is not easy for example where there are no science museums locally. Each roadshow reached approximately 7,000 members of the public and approximately 2,500 primary and secondary school aged children.

The project

CHaOS aims to use hands-on experiments to enthuse and excite visitors about science, engineering and technology, while giving undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to develop their skills in communicating science and engineering to a variety of audiences.

Ingenious funding was used to increase engineering content in the roadshows. Some volunteers joined the CHaOS committee, and helped to develop exciting new experiments, including working models of different types of engine, and a robotics demonstration that is being designed for future roadshows.

In addition, they developed small teacher packs to give to teachers, to help them incorporate demonstrations and practical activities similar to those delivered by CHaOS into their teaching.

Impacts

Many of the participating engineers had better knowledge of public understanding of science and engineering as a result of the project. They also improved their communication skills particularly in engaging people in demonstrations. They all said that they would be interested in further public engagement work including volunteering with CHaOS again.

“I found I got better at tailoring my explanations to the age group, usually by correctly gauging their scientific experience. ”

Engineer

66.7% of the public audiences surveyed said they had learned ‘a lot’ from the roadshows. Early findings from a separate impact study which looks at children’s understanding of “what a scientist is/does” indicate that children were more likely to depict a female scientist after working with CHaOS than before, and children also used words that were more familiar, and less distanced from themselves after the CHaOS workshop. It can be assumed that a similar impact would be felt for those that had engaged with the engineering events.

“The kids absolutely loved it and the adults learned something too. ”

Parent

Learning

As a result of the project, CHaOS has gained more experience in creating engaging engineering demonstrations, and has also developed contacts with useful groups, such as Robogals in Cambridge. They have developed their tour model further, with the appointment of emergency volunteers to help remedy problems during tour being crucial, and will, consequently, be able to run more successful events in coming years.

Next steps

There are plans for more engineering demonstrations, which are expected to be operational in the next two years. CHaOS also hope to recruit more engineers for roadshow events, based on their learning from this project.

 

More information can be found on the CHaOS website