In 2015, IB3 scientists ran a public engagement project with local schools, aimed at empowering young people with engineering and problem solving skills and enthuse them with microfluidic technologies to solve real-life problems.
This exciting project, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, aimed to introduce school pupils to the wonderful world of microengineering, train engineering researchers in public engagement and challenge stereotypes about engineering.
Researchers from the university visited the schools and described to pupils a current challenge related to their research. Together, the teams designed a microfluidic solution to the problem. Microfluidics, or “lab-on-a-chip”, allows for the manipulation of fluids in channels the size of a human hair. Since fluids behave very differently at this scale, these devices offer access to novel phenomena and are predicted to revolutionise healthcare in the coming years.
Example projects included devices that could be used for remote diagnostics, testing for counterfeit drugs, analysing water quality and separating blood cells for medical therapies.
Other projects focussed on artistic outputs with pupils choosing to create snails, Christmas trees and a cartoon comic strip out of microfluidic devices.
Scott Davidson, Chemistry teacher at Inverkeithing, said: “This has been an excellent opportunity for our pupils. It has introduced them to an exciting new area of engineering and they have had the opportunity to interact with engineers, who have all been brilliant role models. The kids, and even the teachers, have been fascinated to see what microfluidics is”.
The school pupils' designs were manufactured at Heriot-Watt, tested in the schools and prizes were awarded to the winning school groups.
The winning projects from Inverkeithing were ‘Lalineic' the Microfluidic comic strip, and ‘PhDroppers' for clinical diagnostics. From Liberton High School, the winning projects were ‘PixelSnails', which mixed art and engineering, and ‘Lemonees', a cheap, eco- friendly alternative to the current disposable dry cells which contain harmful metals. Pupils went on to present their work at a Science Festival in June 2015.
Dr Maiwenn Kersaudy-Kerhous and Dr Helen Bridle
Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Scheme