Using particle accelerators, biofuels and rocket cars to bring science to UK classrooms

06 January 2012

Growing algal biodiesel, racing rocket cars and building model particle accelerators are just some of the new schools projects that are being funded by Royal Society grants totalling over £45,000 awarded today.  These grants are part of a scheme that has been helping scientists and teachers to establish innovative science and engineering projects in schools since 2000.

This latest round of the Partnership Grants Scheme, funded by the Royal Society, will provide 16 primary schools and 9 secondary schools from across the UK with up to £3,000 each to bring science and engineering to life in the classroom and help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Each partnership offers young people the chance to meet and work with scientists and engineers from leading universities and industry and allows them to build and develop their scientific understanding in a way that is exciting, original and relevant to their lives.

Professor John Pethica FRS, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: “The Royal Society Partnership Grants scheme may be the first time that some of these pupils have had the opportunity to work with, or even meet, a practising scientist or engineer. We believe that these experiences are both inspiring and empowering.  Not only are the sciences an exciting area to study and offer a vast range of careers, but a sound understanding of how science ‘works’ is important for all of us in our society where we face complex questions and choices on issues where science and technology are critical.”

The Trinity Catholic School in Nottingham is amongst today’s beneficiaries. Its project, Build your own particle smasher, will see the pupils work to build a model linear particle accelerator and undertake experiments to investigate collision interactions.  At a time in which developments at CERN are regularly featured in the news, as well as in students’ syllabuses, this project provides students with a unique way to get to grips with the science behind the headlines.

At Cape Cornwall School in Cornwall, with the help of the Marine Biological Association, pupils will learn how to isolate and grow microalgae and develop a bioreactor in school for potentially harvesting microalgae.  The project is aimed at helping pupils to see future career opportunities, connect with their rural coastline and use scientific approaches to address the possibility of harvesting algae for biofuels.   

Meanwhile, at Cardinal Newman Catholic Primary School in Hersham, Surrey, primary pupils will investigate the properties of materials and gases to develop, build, test and improve “rocket-powered” metre-long cars.  

Applications for the next round of funding are open until 24th February 2012. Teachers, scientists, engineers and industry partners interested in applying for a Partnership Grant should visit  the web page.