Being as passionate about science, technology, engineering and mathematics as I am, running workshops at Birmingham’s Big Bang Fair is not an unfamiliar environment for me. But 2018 is the first year where I’ve really felt like I belonged there. I am no longer simply a STEM student, regurgitating the careers advice passed to me by a variety of grown-ups. This time around I was the real deal: a fully-fledged successful adult with a (can I say blossoming yet?) career in STEM. This time around I could truthfully talk about how my experiences at school and university have brought me to an interesting and exciting STEM career, and how what we learn at school isn’t a waste of time, because I use some of it nearly every day.
The workshop I took part in this year — entitled “Edible Science” — was organised by experienced Science Communicator Dr Rowena Fletcher-Wood (aka Science Gecko). I spent my day helping around 200 young people to create new medicines from natural plants with a variety of healing properties and (usually) tasty chocolate from raw materials. It’s not exactly my day job, but it was a great way to start a conversation about science and maths at school. From there I could help them to understand how their design and humanities subjects are enhanced by STEM, how certain aspects of STEM subjects will be important for them — whatever career they hope to get into — and how there is always a creative side to the work done in most STEM fields.
Aside from my time talking chemistry, I did get my own opportunities to explore the fair and share what I discovered on social media. I caught up with the cloud makers at Sarah’s Adventures in Science and the cube makers from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. I played video games on Play-Doh with a group from Raspberry Pi and designed high-speed trains on a big screen on the HS2 stand. I even got to see a Red Arrow up close.
Then, when everything was packed up for the day, the BrumSciComm social gave us all a chance to trade tips and begin planning future events. The summer months are always a hive of activity for science and arts festivals, and this is where the SciComm-ers really show their strengths. Many have developed small, portable workshops which they will be repeating throughout the next few months in what’s known as Science Busking. They’ve inspired me to keep working on my SciComm skills and get involved with more events like this in the future.
If you want to find out more about Science Communication, we tend to congregate on Twitter @BrumSciComm. Rowena, Sarah, the IMA and I can also be found there — @RowenaFW, @SarahBearchell, @IMAmaths and @ctridzzz. Info about the Big Bang Fair can be found at www.thebigbangfair.co.uk — they’ve already announced the dates for 2019.