As an Ogden Outreach Officer, I am uniquely positioned to share my passion and enthusiasm for physics with tens of thousands of people across the West Midlands through innovative, engaging and practical-based science workshops. Not being rigidly bound to the National Curriculum affords me the flexibility to embed the learning within entirely different contexts, which students (and adults alike) can readily relate to. This is hugely beneficial as it highlights to the students the relevance and importance of physics, and science more broadly, in their everyday lives.
In 2016, I took 40 pupils from local primary schools to Warwick Castle for the ‘Mighty One’ Trebuchet Challenge, the castle’s flagship project during the British Science Association’s British Science Week. I worked closely with the education team at the castle to carefully design and implement organise an exciting physics and history cross-over event. This culminated in the students building small-scale, tennis ball-firing trebuchets and proved to be a spectacular way to introduce the fundamental physics concepts of energy, forces and momentum.
I also work with a wide range of local groups and organisations to bring physics to non-science venues and specialists. This includes visiting Avoncroft Museum (a historic buildings museum) with the Stardome - our Times Higher Education Award Winning inflatable planetarium - during the February 2018 half term to support their inaugural STEM week.
In 2017, I began working with the research group at Nantwich Museum and created a comprehensive water quality project based around the local river, the Weaver. In its first year this engaged over 120 primary school students and, following its huge success, will be running again this summer. As well as providing valuable insights into the health of the river, this project provided a wonderful opportunity for the students to undertake genuine scientific research, using techniques and equipment that they would otherwise not have access or opportunity to use. This enables the students to identify themselves as scientists and will hopefully inspire them to continue thinking scientifically and engage in further science events and study.
Ultimately, my goal as an outreach officer is not just to increase the number of students studying physics and related subjects at university, although this is of course important if the UK wishes to remain a centre of scientific and research excellence. It is in fact to help create a society with increased science capital. This up-skilling and appreciation for critical thinking, analysis and broader scientific questioning has wide-ranging, positive social impacts which will, in time, benefit us all.
Ogden Outreach Officer, Keele University