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Last week I took part in a ‘Science Sampler Day’, at Ruakura in Hamilton. The idea behind this was to take some really good year 9 school children, and give them a day exposed to some real science. This was run by another Hamilton-based scientist Liz Carpenter, and I thought was a great success.

Throughout the day, the children were is small groups and rotated around different science activities. It was intentionally pretty rapid-fire, with each activity only being about 10 minutes in length. That gave the opportunity to sample lots of different areas of science. Examples included strength of materials, water quality, measuring a runner’s speed and using an infra-red camera to measure body temperature – very varied but all very exciting too.

I took along some electroencephalogram (brain-waves) recording equipment. I think it turned out to be a good choice of activity – on the one hand it looks quite high-tech and impressive, and I think being wired-up and having your brain waves monitored is quite fun – but also in ten minutes I could use it to illustrate that things the children are already learning at school have real application – notably electricity and circuits, and a bit of maths too.

I was certainly impressed with the range of questions and comments that I got – for example speculating about the uses of this (e.g. monitoring of anaesthesia)  – and thoughts about ‘what would happen if..?’. There was some good thinking going on, which tells me that the day was a success.

Just which of these local children will turn out to be world-class scientists I can’t answer, but I would like to think that it has shown some of them that science covers a huge area of application.  Thank you Liz for organizing it.

I’ll be conferencing next week so blogging might be a bit hit-or-miss, but I’m sure I’ll return with lots of blog-fodder for the holiday period.