By Peter Tomiak-Baquero, Policy Manager RCUK Public Engagement with Research.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) is eagerly awaiting The Big Bang Fair 2015! This year the event is taking place at the Birmingham NEC from Wednesday 11th to Saturday 14th March.
This is the UK’s single largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people (aged 7 – 19) in the UK. These subjects are brought to life through a multitude of interactive exhibits, workshops, simulators and shows, delivered by over 200 organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors. Since its launch in 2009, the Fair has grown each year, with over 75,000 visitors attending the 2014 event!
RCUK aims to inspire young people to continue studying STEM subjects in order to secure a sufficient supply of highly-skilled researchers and enable the next generation to act as informed and involved citizens. This is critical to the success of the UK economy and social wellbeing. The Big Bang Fair offers a unique chance to highlight and promote the exciting career opportunities that exist for young people with science, technology, engineering and maths backgrounds. For this reason, RCUK has supported and participated in the Big Bang Fair, since its inception in 2009.
The Big Bang Fair also hosts the finals of the prestigious National Science & Engineering Competition which aims to recognise and reward young people’s achievements in all areas of STEM. We are proud to sponsor the RCUK Prize for Best Use of Research which will be presented at the National Awards Ceremony on March 12th. The winner, the team or individual in the Senior Age category that most impressed the judges with the excellence of their research techniques and best use of research, will receive £500, a certificate, and an ‘experience prize’, which will be a behind-the-scenes visit to one of RCUK’s prestigious research laboratories. During their visit they will have the opportunity to tour areas seldom seen by visitors and speak with leading scientists working on new and cutting-edge research.
In addition, RCUK provides the prize for the winners of the UK Young Scientist of the Year and UK Young Engineer of the Year awards, sponsored by The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). RCUK offers the winners the opportunity to visit a world-leading research facility, such as the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory (in La Palma, Canary Islands), CERN (in Geneva, Switzerland), or one of the Research Council laboratories in the U.K..
RCUK also host a number of stimulating exhibits at the Fair. This year, visitors will have the opportunity to:
- Celebrate the International Year of Light, by visiting “The Incredible Power of Light” Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) exhibition, and discover, through models, animations and interactive exhibits, the importance of lasers in the modern world.
- Become an “Antibiotic Hunter” and debate with scientists from the University of East Anglia and the Biotechnology and Biology Science Research Council (BBSRC) John Innes Centre, about where we should look for the next generation of antibiotics; this stand is supported by BBSRC and the Natural Environment Research Council.
- Use spectroscopy to identify solutions, determine the calorie content of popcorn, and discuss our perception of portion size, at the highly interactive “What’s in Our Food” stand, run by the BBSRC Institute of Food Research.
- Join scientists from the British Crystallographic Association and the world-leading STFC ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source and Diamond Light Source synchrotron research facilities, at the “The Structure of stuff is sweet” exhibit; discuss how x-ray crystallography can determine ‘What “stuff” is made of?” and if you like, try making models of the building blocks of crystal structures using sweets!
- Meet inspirational scientists from the STFC’s Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC), and from the University of Liverpool, the University of Manchester, and Lancaster University, at the “Particle Accelerators: The Engines of Discovery” stall, and discover how these instruments underpin academic and industrial research; with a number of demonstrations and interactive resources, including Van de Graaff generators, this exhibit will definitely make your hair stand on end!
- Visit the “Genetic codes, malaria parasites and microscopes” stand, run by the Medical Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit, where you will have the chance to see a printed and bound copy of the genetic code of a chromosome that determines our sex. Also, try your hardest to avoid activating giant receptors (with their electronic buzz wire game) and examine a malaria parasite, a real DNA sample and a hidden world (revealed through electron microscopy).
In addition to supporting The Big Bang, the Research Councils are collectively involved in a range of other activities, resources and schemes to inspire young people; click here for further details.