The section below hardly does justice to the success of the 2017 Schools' Lecture; a more detailed and lengthy (10 illustrated pages!) report provided by Cheltenham Festivals is available here.
The Eighth Annual Gloucestershire Schools' Christmas Lectures were arranged at the Bacon Theatre at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, on Monday 4 December 2017, when 15 Gloucestershire schools took their Year 8 and 9 pupils to learn about the benefits of studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at GCSE. The aim of the Lectures continues to be to inspire young people through an enjoyable experience (feedback is always overwhelmingly positive) to consider taking STEM subjects both through and beyond school – reflecting concerns about skills shortages and the need to produce and retain more scientists and engineers in the years ahead. 471 pupils from Archway School, Barnwood Park Arts College, Beaufort Co-operative Academy, Belmont School, Cheltenham Bournside School, Chosen Hill, Cirencester Kingshill School, Dean Close Prep School, Dene Magna School, Five Acres High School, Millbrook Academy, Pittville School, Rendcomb College, The Cotswold School and Wyedean School and Sixth Form attended the show to learn about neuroscience and robotics from experts Ginny Smith and Jonathan Milton. They emerged with a new enthusiasm for science subjects. One pupil from Wydean commented afterwards: 'I will definitely be doing something in science when I leave school'.
How to hack your brain. Ginny’s talk focussed on how our brain communicates with the rest of our body. Through a series of demonstrations and games she was able to talk to pupils about the pathways messages take in our nervous system and included a fascinating experiment to show you can how hack the signals to control someone else’s movements.
Ginny specialised in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. She performs at science festivals and for school groups in the UK and internationally as well as teaching at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education. She has produced and presented content for BBC 5 Live and international radio stations with The Naked Scientists, and has presented on screen with the Cosmic Shambles network and Cambridge TV. She is a regular writer for DK science books.
The wonderful world of robots. Jonathan’s talk took the audience through the history of animatronics and then introduced the latest robotic technology. He brought along a programmable ‘Sphero’ robot and an ‘Alpha’ robot to demonstrate how they are programmed and some of the issues that even simple robots have. His talk questioned whether humans were better than robots and vice versa – a challenging task!
Jonathan is a science communicator who has worked as part of the science comedy act Punk Science for the Science Museum, writing and performing shows all over the world. His TV work includes science segments on ITV’s ‘This Morning’, BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ and the TV series ‘Scientrific’ for Discovery. Jonathan has also written four science books for children including his latest, ‘The Super Intelligent High Tech Robot Book’. He is currently a curator for some of the interactive spaces at the Science Museum and other associated museums.
Sponsorship. The sponsors of this year's lectures were the International Food Information Service, Gloucestershire Engineering Training, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, the Mears Group, Spirax Sarco, Randall & Payne, Renishaw plc & the Royal Society of Chemistry (Bristol and District Section). The Honourable Company is extremely grateful for their generous and unstinting support. Past Warden Patrick Brooke, who established this initiative, is already looking to secure support for the 2018 Lectures; they take place on Monday 10 December, once again at Dean Close School.