Most people will have vivid memories of their science lessons at school. For some it will have been their first chance to get hands-on experience of a real experiment, using bunsen burners, goggles and test tubes, and invariably producing a pungent smell. Whether you went on to pursue a career using the skills you acquired or left your lab coat at the classroom door, it is a subject that has the power to amaze, surprise and enthrall.
This year, the University of Wolverhampton held its inaugural SciFest event, welcoming Midlands school pupils, and then the public, on campus to experience the magic of science.
Local school pupils were able to get up close and personal with a variety of subject areas at the University during the week, with workshops aimed at Primary, GCSE and A-level students. They were offered a taster of what life is like on campus at the University, with a dedicated team of lecturers, current students and technicians presenting workshops to bring to life subjects including forensic science, midwifery, car design, life support and pharmacy.
The SciFest Public Day coincided with the Olympic torch and Blue Peter being in Wolverhampton on Saturday, 30 June, and there was plenty to keep the crowds entertained. TV star, Dr Bunhead, who is wellknown for his educational stunts, brought his entertaining Pyromania Show to the University, wowing the audience with a series of explosive demonstrations.
Dr Bunhead, aka Tom Pringle, says: “Events like SciFest wake kids up to the excitement of science (if they’re not convinced already). It provides a fresh buzz of excitement and curiosity in kids and parents alike. It’s not just about the ‘WOW! Factor’ of science, but also the joy of the AHA! Moment - that feeling when the penny drops and something finally makes sense.”
Dr Bunhead was also keen to encourage children to go to university and pursue a career in science. “It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Just going to university and experiencing so much diversity under one roof will take you in new directions. I have seen so many science graduate friends entering fantastic careers and enjoying amazing opportunities and experiences through their science qualifications, from studying elephant dung in African jungles and Formula 1 tyres in Jamaica to developing perfumes, fashion fabrics, the latest foods and extreme sports equipment.”
Other shows included some medieval medical magic with Julia Hyland, a medical effects make-up artist from the History of Medicine Unit at the University of Birmingham, who brought to life some gruesome, historic diseases and treatments.
Thinktank’s Mobile Planetarium gave budding astronomers an opportunity to take a tour through our solar system, and Tropical Inc brought an array of creatures to entertain and inform the crowd.
The best of what the University offers aspiring scientists, mathematicians, computing wizards, sports stars and engineers was on display, with University staff on-hand to help enthusiastic students assemble robots (and take them to battle); build rockets with the help of RAF Cosford; and explore the Experiments Marquee.
Visitors found they were pressed for time, trying to fit in as much as possible, and teachers were thrilled with the activities – so perhaps the last word should go to them: “I shall definitely be back next year – but with a lot more children!”