This week saw the launch of The Wellcome Trust and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded ‘EnLightenment’ competition at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.
‘Enlightenment: Build it, See it, Show it’ aims to get schoolchildren across Scotland building their own kit microscopes, and using them to take amazing images to reveal the hidden details of the microscopic world around them. These images can be uploaded to the website, www.enlightenment.hw.ac.uk, to be part of an image contest and win awesome prizes for their schools.
The launch brought together over 100 teachers and interested others to explore the potential of the microscopes, and hear about some of the amazing science going on at Heriot-Watt. Prof Rory Duncan and Dr Paul Dalgarno from the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics & Bioengineering (IB3) gave an enlightening talk in Dynamic Earth’s showdome, covering some of the cutting edge science research being performed at Heriot-Watt in the fields of microscopy and cellular imaging. Glow sticks, history, collaboration and enthusiasm came together to demonstrate the complex biology and impact of this incredible work.
There was much enthusiasm from the teachers about the ‘brilliant’ project, which highlights how important interdiscplinarity is, and how we need to get children excited about science at this young age.. Loraine Wilson from Boroughmuir High Edinburgh said ‘That was such an interesting talk, the implications of their work are immense! Looking forward to receiving our kits and using these microscopes.’
A challenge that education needs to overcome is in getting girls interested in physics. Lots of studies have shown that female students prefer studying life to physical sciences, so one aim of EnLightenment is to show school pupils, before they make their subject selections, that physics can be used to study how life works. Biophysics is something often under-emphasised in school. We hope that this may encourage girls to consider physics not to ‘just be for the boys’. A representative from the Wellcome Trust attended the launch and the Trust is watching the project keenly, as encouraging interdisciplinary learning and redressing gender imbalances are key to their strategy.
If you know schools who would be interested in the kits, get in touch via the website – we have a limited number to give away so the sooner the better!
Follow updates on the project via Twitter (@HWEngage and @InstituteBioX3) and Instagram (EnLightenmentHW).