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On Wednesday 6th March AWE hosted a successful Secrets of Science event at Tadley Community Centre.
The day, which showcased physics and chemistry demonstrations, was designed to encourage young people who enjoy maths, engineering and science, to consider taking these subjects further, and to engage their interest in a practical way.
More than 80 pupils aged from 11-13 from local schools attended the event.
It involved a range of lively and challenging activities that made the pupils aware of how interesting science and a career in related disciplines can be. It supported the national curriculum, with the chance to win a prize at the end of the competition which was run concurrently.
The pupils were thoroughly impressed with the demonstration of wave physics, using a 1.5-meter gas burner called a Rubens tube to make flame waveforms. There was also a seismology activity and the chance to make a mini volcano or a lava lamp at the chemistry stand.
Matt Childs, one of the AWE graduates who organised the event, said: “It was fantastic to see the pupils interact with the wide range of science demonstrations and appreciate that science can be fascinating.
“I hope that events like this inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. It was also a fun team-building opportunity and was great to meet other graduates and work with different areas of the company.”
Matt added that the feedback from the pupils was excellent, with one commenting after the event: “It was interesting to learn how a wind tunnel works. I also learnt how to tell an earthquake and an explosion apart in seismology.”
Zoe Lambden, from the Skills Academy, gave a brief talk about engineering, before moving on to the challenge called the ‘egg drop’.
She said: “We split the group into two teams of five and briefed them on what we wanted for the end product – this being a device that was capable of catching an egg from a set height without it breaking or evening cracking. We gave the students a bag of set materials which included cotton wool, tissue paper, A4 paper, lollipop sticks and a glove.
“The students were very enthusiastic and engaged very well with each other and the task at hand. Each group had a different idea and throughout the day we were very impressed with some of the engineering designs that were used.”
Professor Andrew Randewich, Head of Plasma Physics at AWE said: “I was very impressed with the level of interaction between the schools and the presenters. Many of the questions asked were pertinent and thought provoking, and the enjoyment and enthusiasm of everyone at the event was very clear to see.
“We hope that the event has helped to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers who may one day come to work at AWE, perhaps even on the Orion laser, or with our collaborators in industry or the wider academic world.”
One of the teachers who attended, Dr Karen Perry, head of science at Kendrick School, said: “The students had a wonderful time at the Secrets of Science event. They really enjoyed the variety of activities which spread over different aspects of science and particularly liked the hands on activities such as making a volcano and the engineering challenge.
“They were enthralled by Ian Dunne’s presentation and particularly enjoyed opportunities to take part in activities. Through these activities they were able to consolidate the knowledge they had; build on it and extend and apply it to real world situations in a safe and stimulating environment.”
During the day, the different groups were scored based on their participation and ability to answer questions put to them at each demonstration stand.
The overall winners were from Costello Technology College, in Basingstoke. They received a cheque for £300 and they also won the best overall team prize. In second place was The Hurst Community College, in Tadley, with a cheque for £200 and in third place with a £100 cheque was Kendrick School, from Reading. The other school which took part in the event was Bishop Challoner Secondary School, Basingstoke.
Julie Kirsch, a teacher at Bishop Challoner, said: “My pupils and I really enjoyed the event and it certainly inspired them. They are keen to do an assembly for all our Year 7 students to tell them what they learned.
“They plan to wear their radiation suits, to do some of the chemistry experiments and to show seismic traces via computer. One of my pupils didn't like science at primary school but she says it is her favourite subject now!
“The group particularly enjoyed the engineering session as they were challenged to make something, and the highlight was Ian Dunne's talk.”
After the event, Hardik Trivedi, one of the graduates who organised the event, said: “I feel incredibly proud of our achievements. We spent eight weeks organising today, designing the challenges to make sure they would stretch the student’s knowledge whilst capturing their imaginations.
“The most lasting effect of this event has been to create immense interest amongst the pupils in science, technology and engineering that will inspire the next generation. The graduate team has really pulled together as a team to make this day such a success and all the subsequent positive feedback has made us want to do it all over again.”
Notes to Editors
1. AWE plays a crucial role in national defence by providing and maintaining warheads for Trident, the UK's nuclear deterrent
2. AWE is contracted to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) through a Government-owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) arrangement. Whilst our sites and facilities remain in government ownership, their management, day to day operations, and the maintenance of the nuclear stockpile is contracted to a private company AWE Management Limited (AWE ML). AWE ML is a consortium comprising three equal partners: Serco Group plc, the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Jacobs Engineering Group.
3. For further information contact Media@AWE.co.uk or 01189855888.