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Pupils Explore Nanotechnology At Begbroke Science Park

Pupils from Oxfordshire and Hampshire schools visited Begbroke Science Park (BSP) to attend its annual Practical Nanoscience for Schools workshop on 14th June 2017.

Forty year 8 and 9 pupils from King Alfred’s, Wallingford School, Our Lady’s Abingdon, St Gregory the Great and Eggar’s School, Hampshire took time out of their normal day to explore the fascinating world of nanoscience.

The event opens the door to nanotechnology, showing students where it is already being used in their daily lives, not to mention the vast range of future applications.  Showing pupils day to day examples makes this highly complex topic much more accessible.

Pupils took part in six practical workshops, ranging from exploring the nature of hydrophobic coatings and “magic” sand, to constructing complex models of carbon nanostructures from plastic tubes. All the sessions support the school curricula, and the knowledge is relevant all the way through to A levels.

The sessions were led by DPhil and post-doctoral researchers from the Physical Sciences research groups based at Begbroke.  Engineering DPhil student Catherine Fan, leading the session on Hydrophobic Coatings said,Even though the kids have never lived in a world without internet and smartphones, playing with hydrophobic tissues and nanoparticles always seems to dazzle (and this technology was used to make their smartphones repel water).  

We loved it when one boy said, “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life!” 

Christiane (Norenberg) made a statement about how a lot of technology is inspired from nature and that really hit home for us.  You kind of forget when you’re in the lab or playing with manufactured products that the idea came from water droplets rolling off ducks and lotus leaves. I think that doing these kind of activities for kids at their age is really vital because they might inspire them to become scientists or engineers. 

We guide them by asking “Why? How does it work? What else could you do with it?” 

Questions that we always ask ourselves in our field.”

The activities promoted a high level of engagement from all pupils, with all their teachers saying they’d be happy to recommend the event to other schools. Pam Stokell of King Alfred’s School in Wantage, commented saying, “This has been a fantastic morning.  The pupils were engaged and interested throughout, many many thanks.”

Christiane Norenberg, Nanotechnology Business Manager at BSP said “We’re thrilled that the day has again been so well received. It is highly rewarding to show the pupils how these seemingly futuristic applications are starting to appear in consumer goods already. We aim to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and to encourage them to think imaginatively about science and nanotechnology. It’s also an invaluable experience for our graduate students, giving them an opportunity to engage with the public to explain their work here at Begbroke.”

Begbroke Science Park also offers skills training in nanoscience for teachers. The one-day course complements the student workshop, providing teachers with all the resources to deliver nanoscience activities in their own classrooms which support the GCSE/GCE and BTEC curricula.

BSP’s Practical Nanoscience for Teachers will take place on the 12th July 2017.   If you would like to enquire about the 2017/2018 Practical Nanoscience Schools Day or any of our other schools events please contact events@begbroke.ox.ac.uk.

Joanna Grant