Earlier this month, the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham welcomed back some of the Year 6 Ogden Schools Physicist of the Year Award winners 2017 and their families for a special day on the Physics of Exoplanets (planets that orbit other stars than the Sun). Ten Ogden prizewinners, now in Year 7, attended the special day with their families including younger and older siblings, parents and even one grandparent.
The event comprised of an interactive talk about ‘Our Amazing Universe’ followed by a chance to look around the University on its Open Day and participate in a creative Exoplanets workshop, designed by The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh.
In the workshop, the children and their families worked in small groups to create a model of the planetary systems Gliese 581 and Cancri 55. They calculated the scale needed to make the planetary system model on a polystyrene board, they then modelled each of the exoplanets using playdough and finally they used an appropriate mathematical formula to calculate where the ‘Goldilocks’ zone was (for liquid water to possibly exist on the planets’ surfaces).
Finally, each group presented their findings to the rest of the audience, mimicking a real scientific conference, and discussed whether any of the planets in their planetary system would be worth searching for extra-terrestrial life.
“The aim of this event,” explained Dr Maria Pavlidou, Ogden Outreach Officer at the University of Birmingham, “is to keep in touch with these keen and gifted young scientists, build their science capital and, through this and similar events over the next few years, nurture their passion for physics and astronomy through KS3.”
The event was hosted by Maria from the School of Physics and Astronomy and Dr Jenny Watson, Ogden Regional Representative for the Trust in Birmingham.
Parent feedback included:
"Your programme/workshop was amazing – very, very informative, not only for children but also for their parents. We feel like we are in love with physics, especially astronomy."
"Thank you for giving us this opportunity to participate in this wonderful event."
"The only negative point is he has to wait a whole year before coming to the University again!"