Some of our students attended the RI Unconference in December, here are their stories.
On the 15th of November eight year ten students from Ursuline Academy Ilford made their way to the L'Oréal young scientists centre UnConference at the Royal Institute of Great Britain in Mayfair. The aim of the conference was to present some of the main social problems the Science community faces and to get us to find alternative solutions or policies to help these problems. I didn't know what to expect, but it was looking to be a really active day where I would get a chance to use some the knowledge I already had about STEM and just using communication skills as well.
We began with talks from specialists on four main problems. They were:
Food security and the environment
Energy and the environment
The ethics of Bioscience
The ethics of sharing big data
These four talks got us to think about some of the issues with feeding everyone in the world, providing energy for everyone, whether we should use genomes on the Internet and how safe it is to share personal information and finally the ethics of bioscience, genetic engineering and the future of science branches such as cloning and selective breeding.
With my experience from my CREST project - I had to tackle the problem of food for everyone - I had loads of ideas and background information in mind, as well as the experience of communicating my ideas through project presentations. We also kept linked to the Royal Institute via Twitter, BBM and email which was great and we gave our opinion on the live twitter feed which was hilarious at some points.
After lunch, we then had to decide which subject interested us the most and we split up into groups for each subjects and went to talk about the situation and possible solutions with other students from other schools. We then had to give our opinion and a selected few then had to plan an aural presentation to give to everyone else. I liked this bit the most as I was on a table with some vocal and very intelligent people. We soon got into deep discussion and although some of the students were older than me, I was confident that I would be able to bring some stuff to the table through my experience at the CREST Youth Panel and it was great being able to share my ideas. It was really interesting to hear other people's opinions and ideas and then as group helping to develop the ideas and we actually came up with some great concepts for it.
When everyone had conjoined again, the presenters had to give the possible solutions to a panel of judges from all over the science community and they were questioned. Some very interesting ideas and solutions came out. There was even a suggestion to modify cows so they produce ice cream!
When all the presentations had finished it was time to go home and we all left buzzing with new ideas and really appreciating what we had experienced.
I really enjoyed this experience and I felt so confident and happy to share my ideas much like I had at the National Science + Engineering Competition. I feel that just getting involved with STEM has really given me opportunities and new skills and interests I never would've had. Things like my GCSE choices have been affected; a few years ago, I'd never considered DT to be a subject I would take for GCSE and I didn't think I would've been good at it, but now that I have a real understanding of STEM and the job opportunities it can open up for me.
Receiving my CREST Bronze and Silver Awards also gave me the confidence or know that I can produce a high standard of work in these subjects and the recognition I also received was a massive confidence boost. For this I'm really grateful to my teachers that gave me the opportunities and the many people I've met and continue to meet in my experience of STEM and CREST.
On Friday 15th November we embarked on a journey to Mayfair, in order to visit the Royal Institution. We were told about this great opportunity by the British Science Association, as we are also members of the CREST Youth Panel.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted with countless biscuits and drinks – pro bono of course. Both of us, being Doctor Who fans were already excited about the prospect of visiting the Royal Institution, as the day before “The Science of the Doctor Who” was aired, and coincidentally filmed in the same place, starring the infamous Professor Brian Cox.
During the morning of the event, we listened to many interesting lectures from the experts and key influencers in the science industry, based on the theme ‘Future technologies and ethical implications’. This included:
• Climate and energy supply: Prof Sir David King- Special Advisor on Climate Change to the Foreign Secretary
• Personal data acquisition and security: Susan Wallace, Lecturer on Population and Health Sciences, University of Leicester
• Biosciences: Dr Adam Rutherford-Author, broadcaster and science communicator
• Environment and food security: Prof Tim Wheeler- Department of crop science, University of Reading
The topics discussed were very interesting and aimed to make us think about scientific issues beyond the curriculum.
We were encouraged to send in our views on the topics discussed over Twitter, providing much entertainment for us sitting in the lecture theatre as they were projected on a screen behind the speakers as they answered questions. As hilarious as they were, most of them weren’t suitable for appearing in this blog post!
After lunch, we separated into groups to discuss the issues further and prepare presentations. Our group was centred on the issue of personal data and security; we discussed whether we would post our genome on social networking sites like Facebook in the name of scientific research. As dubious as we were initially, everyone got very involved in the discussions.
The whole event was recorded by cameras, which reasonably daunting, nevertheless exciting. Once we had finished discussing our allocated topic, we headed back towards the lecture theatre to present our ideas. A panel of VIP judges, also the experts in the industry came to interrogate us on our thoughts about the topics.
The talks given by the other groups were very interesting. We all had different opinions on the matter, but it was definitely worth listening to what everyone else had to say.
The event was sponsored by L’Oreal, which bought memories of our own CREST project and the investigation into hairspray. Nevertheless we maintained composure during the day, and did not let our excitement get the better of us.
Overall it was a fantastic opportunity; not just to miss a day of school, but to meet new people, listen to fascinating lectures and be a part of scientific decisions that would be made by the government.
Kate Quillin and Mythiri Sutharson