The previous four Saturday mornings I got up early and headed for the Kelvin Building, which is where physics is done at the University of Glasgow. It was Science Master Class Season.
Twice a year the University of Glasgow, alongside a few other Scottish Universities, holds science master classes for high school students. These are partly funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and are aimed at students who are ~12-13 years old. It’s designed to give them a taster of why science, but mostly physics, is so exciting.
We have four topics to cover in the four sessions: Bridge Building, Astrophysics, Rocket Science and Aeroplane Design. Each session lasts about 3 hours, starts with a quick talk and involves a couple of activities. I run the Bridge Building class and assist with all the others.
Bridge Building starts with a quick talk, then we learn about supports and materials with a fun free modelling program, finally we have a competition building bridges with K’Nex. Astrophysics has kids building spectroscopes and sitting in an inflatable planetarium. Rocket science is always popular; The talk features a lot of explosions and then the kids get to build bottle rockets, which we launch making a fantastic mess. Occasionally they explode. It’s wonderful. Finally, the aeroplane design course features a chance to play with a flight simulator before spending about an hour making and throwing paper aeroplanes.
The sessions are typically high on fun, if low on technical detail, but they’re also real opportunities for the kids to learn. They get really creative, working together as teams and trying out different ideas. There’s always a competition at the end (best bridge, fastest paper aeroplane, etc) for which they normally win chocolate or small toys and everyone gets a certificate at the end. They make friends with kids from different schools and they give us great feedback which helps us to justify running the classes again, but also helps us improve them a little each time.
I’m looking forward to sleeping in a little later this Saturday, but I’ll miss the master classes and I’m looking forward to running the next set in Autumn.