CREST Awards

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) enrichment activities to inspire and engage young people aged 5-19 years

01/08/2014

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CREST to Volunteering - my journey with the Association (so far...)

Since carrying out my CREST award in 2010, I have had plenty of exciting opportunities to volunteer with the British Science Association. I spent a year on the CREST youth panel, which meets twice a year to discuss ways in which the CREST scheme can be improved. I was also part of the team that delivered a presentation on young people’s views on environmental issues at the opening ceremony of the Planet Under Pressure conference. This was an absolutely incredible experience as we were talking to scientists from all over the world! I then spoke about my involvement in both of these projects at the 2012 Science Communication Conference. My latest adventure with the British Science Association took me to the British Science Festival!

This year the British Science Festival landed in Newcastle and I was there with the X-Change team to showcase the very best speakers in our amazing lunchtime show!

The week kicked off with one of our busiest shows. Firstly, we were treated to a couple of brilliantly geeky songs from Helen Arney, one third of Festival of the Spoken Nerd. Senior lecturer in intelligent robotics Nick Hawes also joined us, along with his robot Dora the explorer (who was sporting one of our iconic pink X-Change t-shirts!). Also, possibly one of the beast moments of the whole week was meeting Robert Winston after his talk! I think we were all a bit star struck!

On Tuesday marine biologist Jonathan Houghton showed us that scientists don’t just stay in the lab. He explained how his research involved attaching cameras to the backs of basking sharks in order to understand the species better! We also invited Andrea Dolfini to the stage. He brought some replica bronze age weapons along with him, which the X-Change team got to try out afterwards (under strict supervision, so don’t worry, no one was harmed!).

I only just made it to Wednesday’s show in time after I had been running around the streets of Newcastle with a megaphone shouting about how amazing the X-Change was going to be! The show definitely delivered this promise, with a particular highlight being the appearance of one of the Festival’s star speakers; Sugata Mitra, the man who’s experiments inspired “Slumdog Millionaire”. He had a chat to us about his 1999 “hole in the wall” experiments where he installed a computer into the wall of a New Dehli slum and found that the local children intuitively taught themselves to use the internet. Simon Watt, the president of the Ugly Animal Preservation society, also joined us. He made the case that humans are too obsessed with conserving the cute animals (he expressed a particular distaste for the panda) and so we should start to pay more attention to the more aesthetically challenged species.

The X-Change finished with a bang on Thursday with the National Science and Engineering competition winners Emily O’Regan and Fred Turner taking to the stage to tell us about their inspiring projects. We also had Piers Mitchell (along with a 3000 year old skull) on the show to tell us about the history of diseases such as the plague, leprosy and TB- the perfect topic for a lunchtime show!

Taking part in the X-Change was an absolutely amazing experience and I learned so much about the world of science communication! I gained so many new skills, including advertising events and editing podcasts, which will be really useful for the science communication projects that I’m involved in at university.

 

Jess Wynn (Chemistry undergraduate)

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