STEM Visit to Alconbury Church of England Primary School for Science Week…
Our STEM ambassadors were invited via the Eastern Region STEM Networking Group to visit Alconbury Church of England Primary School in support of Science Week. Engineer Simon Tullett and scientist Dr Gillian Lewis attended from the TTP Labtech STEM Ambassador group to undertake some practical and fun science experiments and to demonstrate a liquid handling robot to the children.
Alconbury primary school is in a small village near to Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire and is a single form entry school catering for children from Reception through to Year 6 (4.5 to 11 years of age). Each class is approximately 30 children. On the day, we had the pleasure of 20, Year 6 children both boys and girls.
The day started with introductions about what STEM was and finding out what the children thought about the STEM subjects. We then quickly moved into our first activity of making bath bombs. Gillian explained that it was a demonstration of a chemical reaction that would be catalyzed by the bath water. The children mixed citric acid and bicarbonate of soda with essential oils and food coloring to make a variety of sweet smelling and colorful bath bombs. The work involved carefully measuring out the ingredients and mixing properly before molding them. The children and teachers all made bath bombs to take home that night.
Making bath bombs
The second activity was making and using invisible ink. This was made by mixing a base, in this case bicarbonate of soda with water. The children then wrote secret messages to each other (along the lines of “I hate my sister/brother”!) and allowed the ink to dry. To reveal the message an acid was used, in this case grapefruit juice to neutralize the base.
We then had a talk about the dragonfly liquid handling robot and discussed what sort of skills people need to make a machine like this. We looked at the costs and timescales and explained that it isn’t just STEM subjects but a whole variety of other skills are needed when designing a machine. This was followed by a demonstration and each child got to drive the dragonfly and produce a brightly colored dye pattern on a paper towel by running a gradient protocol on the dragonfly. The chemicals used in this experiment were bright inks from highlighter pens and this demonstrated how different quantities of material can very accurately be mixed together.
The final experiment of the day was to grow some crystals using a saturated solution of sugar. Each child made up a test tube with a wick dipped in the solution. The sugar crystals should start to form over the rest of the week for them.
We wrapped up with a Q&A session where the children asked lots of questions and told us about their experiences. One boy told us how his brother had undergone chemotherapy and was interested to learn how machines like dragonfly could be used in the fight to find a cure for cancer.
Simon and Gillian were invited to dinner on the promise that we come back and do something else at the school in the future!