Animal magic

21 May 2019

With support from The Ogden Trust, a team from UCL, medical science, bio-science and computer science and UCL Culture, have this year been working with The Petchey Academy, Hackney, London to explore the link between robots, computer programming, 3D printing and animal movement.

The team had already developed and delivered an Animal Movement Workshop in the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology to more than 300 students to help inspire the next generation of scientists with this intriguing and diverse area of biomimicry.Now, working with Petchey Academy, the team has been able to develop the programme to build stronger links with the National Curriculum and exam specifications. Learning resources and materials are being created and will be available online for other schools to use.

Two taster school workshops at Petchey, one about 3D printing and another one about robotics, gave any interested pupil the chance to ask questions, learn about some of the latest developments in robotics and 3D printing and have a practical session. Each student filled in a questionnaire which helped the head of science at the school select the pupils to participate in the after school club.

The club takes place after school for 10 sessions. Each pupil completed a base-line survey at the beginning of the club. Another survey, to be completed at the end of the workshops, will ascertain the value of the workshops: what was learnt, what went well and what went wrong and, most importantly to see if there is any change in the students’ attitude to physics because of taking part.

The group was divided into two groups for the first five sessions. One group built a 3D printer from the scratch while another team start designing a kangaroo robot inspired by studying the kangaroo skeleton at the Grant Museum. The groups are now working together to design and then 3D print a prototype jumping robot.

“We hope that this project will inspire a love of physics and a desire to continue studying it,” explained project leaders Emma Bryant and Daniil Nikitichev from UCL. “The skills gained through this run and experiential learning will hopefully increase attainment in physics and introduce the pupils to research by engaging them in developing the robotic kit. We believe that its impact and legacy will continue through the teaching materials and resources we have produced.”

A science festival will take place at the school in July. Planning is well underway, with undergraduate students from UCL leading on the planning. At the festival, UCL students and academics from several STEM departments will meet pupils; prominent researchers, for example Professor David Hawkes, who developed equipment to treat prostate cancer, will be explaining his work. There will be interactive stalls as well as a show from the Science Museum. Other local schools, parents and the community have been invited.

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