Reaching out to tomorrow's engineers

Last Saturday SYMETA did its first outreach event at the Loughborough University STEM Community Day. Translating complex and difficult science into messages which young children can understand and engage with is a challenge. We decided to take two elements of our research and put together two activities:

  • A 3D printing demonstration to print Bulbasaur Pokemon. For those of you (like me) who don't don't what a Bulbasaur is, it is small, quadruped Pokémon that has blue-green skin with darker green patches. On its back is a green plant bulb, which is grown from a seed planted there at birth. The bulb provides it with energy through photosynthesis as well as from the nutrient-rich seeds contained within.

  • An exercise where the kids used conductive ink to draw a circuit on a car template which would, when connected to a nine volt battery, light an LED as the car siren.

The things we learnt were:

  1. People find 3D printers mesmerising

  2. You need to spend the week before any event building up a stock of 'freebie' 3D printed Pokemon. We ran out towards the end of the afternoon and the batch we were 'live' printing took 4 hours and were not ready to give away before the end of the day.

  3. Using Twitter in advance of the day and tweeting a picture of our advancing Bulbasaur really captured the imagination and encouraged people to visit our table.

  4. Children at these events are very excited and want to move quickly between tables. Their attention span is short. They don't like reading even the simplest of instructions. It works best if a volunteer guides them through the exercise.

  5. Conductive ink pens are great but don't respond well to scribbling!

  6. Lots of the time the parents are more interested than the children.

  7. Kids like to stand up when they are doing things.

The feedback we got was very positive and we even managed to speak to a few of the adults about our research. Hopefully this will be the first of many such events.

#pokemon #outreach

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