Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas Jingle Bells at Daresbury

Tuesday 9th December and we were off to Daresbury labs for our final Chemistry at Work Day of this year with MerseySTEM.
It being pretty close to the holidays we decided to make this one a bit special so when it came to making the usual bath bombs as part of our hands on take home make for the session we created Christmas puddings.

Getting the puddings right took quite a bit of experimenting - we usually use liquid food colouring for the bombs but it is very hard to get a proper brown so after some research we eventually coloured the brown base using powdered pigment especially created for cosmetics which we made into solution - it took quite a bit of trial and error to get a good pudding colour that wouldn't stain the bath, the towels and the person!!
We had splotchy brown hands for a few days.

We topped it off with plain white mix and a holly sprig.

Then of course the all important fragrance.......finally after quite a bit of sniff testing we decided the bath bombs would be fragranced with mince pie mix which made the whole room smell spicy and seasonal. At first I thought it was a very seasonal and cheerful smell but after making a few I began to long for the usual bubblegum fragrance. I am not sure it really was mince pies more like mulled wine without the drink! Quite how that will work in a bath I am not sure plus when we demonstrated using our little bath the water was a decided brown - not the best look in a bath.
Fortunately in a real bath the brown will dilute to a peachy tinge!

There were some teachers from schools we had met before and it was good to see some old friends and to make new ones especially as they joined our mailing list for the newsletter.

So we have completed another year of Chemistry at Work days and look forward to being able to join in the fun in 2105.

As I am writing this post I can see we have broken through 6000 hits - thank you to everyone who reads our blog, thank you for your support.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Tripping the Light Fantastic with Upton Heath Chester

 We had a wonderful time on Thursday with Upton Heath primary school in Chester exploring light and colour through our show Inside the Rainbow.
This show is probably our favourite because it is so lovely to watch expressions of the children as they enter a darkened room full of so many different sorts of lights - disco balls splashing coloured light across the ceiling, fibre optic lamps shimmering, a lava lamp is slowly glooping away, the plasma ball is doing it's thing looking so exciting......
Everyone wants to peep into the darkened hall to see what is happening!!

The first show was with year 1 and 2 who came in so quietly trying very hard to contain their excitement when they saw how amazing the room looked.
This show is such a lovely experience - after feeling so warm and glowing in all this light we turn off everything and realise how different it feels to be in the dark and how little we can actually see. Helen and I are dressed for the occasion and we light up our  EL outfits and uncover our glow bracelets and suddenly we are having a wonderful time playing with all sort of gadgets and gizmos that use light.

We all made huge shadows and kept some on a special shadow sheet.
We explored the rainbow using our amazing glasses and then found out that some insects can see beyond the rainbow in Ultraviolet so we used our special lights to show secret messages.
Helen helped some excited volunteers to set fire to special chemicals and show how how fireworks are coloured and then Sue made a spectacular sparkler with some extra fine iron filings

We bounced light around the room using mirrors, used our muscles to make torches light up and the teachers lit up special tubes using our plasma ball.

All to soon it was time to leave for break.
Waiting at the door of the hall were  a group of reception children who were almost squeaking they were so excited because this was an unexpected extra - a short session with us playing with the toys, dressing up in the EL lights and wearing the rainbow glasses. We got lots of hugs as they left.......

After break we were much more serious with year 2 and 3.....well a little bit! Similar show but with a bit more added science explanation

In the afternoon we worked with year 3 who are studying light and colour right now.
We looked at how with just three colours we can make a whole rainbow - the wonderful coloured patterns they created will make great displays.

We made our own secret messages using two different special pens - one that we revealed using another pen and then we wrote messages that needed the UV light the reveal them.

Finally in small groups we made special lava lamps in deep red  that we lit up to make a super display and one group helped us to make a little video clip

Friday, 5 December 2014

Two shows in Cheshire - Weaverham High School and UCAN

on stage at UCAN
This week we were out and about in Cheshire sharing exciting science shows organised by CheshireSTEM

Our secondary science show is called   "I Wasn't Expecting That!"  because that is what we love about science  - how you are often surprised by results and amazed by materials.
In the morning we were warmly welcomed at Weaverham High school by Janet Kolita the Careers Co-ordinator and shown into the school hall to set up for a show with the whole of their year 7 about 200 pupils. Many thanks to their science technicians and caretaker for helping us set up.

Thankfully this hall has a super high ceiling so we were able to include most of our fire demonstrations and of course our finale whoosh bottle. We had a great time - year 7 were an enthusiastic audience, keen to join in and very interested in how the demos worked.
There were some quite jealous older pupils when they saw what we had all been up to as we were clearing away during break time.

The afternoon school was not very far away so we were able to drop in to Weaver Hall museum for a coffee and freshen up and we managed to meet up for a quick catch up with Tom Hughes who runs the education team.

Then we were off to University of Chester Academy Northwich (UCAN) for a second show again with year 7s.

About 90 pupils were in the hall for another exciting set of demonstrations with lots of volunteers getting involved especially with the handwarmers and colour change straws. We were up on the stage in the main hall which was a great setting for the show. We were even able to make the hall really dark so that the plasma ball, rainbow flames, fire balls and whoosh bottle were really effective.
Everyone had a great time including the staff who were happy to join in and let us try to blow them up!

After a busy day it was back to base to pack up for the next day........

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Hubble Bubble - having a slime fest

I have spent the last few days making vast amounts of ingredients for slime!!
We were invited to Daresbury Laboratory for their family day and being so close to Halloween we decided to go for a spooky slime make.

Using polyvinyl alcohol and borax with some great colours - dracula purple, pumpkin orange, snot green and blood red - we helped the younger scientists make huge amounts of slippery, gooey slime.

We think we encountered around 200 people in about 2 hours

With Helen the Witch and Countess Dracula helping everyone make slime  we all had a great time

Friday, 19 September 2014

A New Academic Year

Even though September is proving to be a wonderfully warm event it is still the start of the Autumn term for all of us involved in education.
This is a long and busy term - getting to know new pupils and getting up to speed after a long break; working out new plans especially with the new primary science curriculum for teachers in England  and the ever present question about resources.

This month our electronic newsletter concentrates  on what the larger institutions and associations have produced to help.

There are some great links so for those of you who have not signed up to our mailing list, here are just a few from The Science Spot...have fun

You don't have to be a member to access many of the resources on this site. Keep your eye out for the regional conferences which are great for picking up ideas. We usually do a guest spot at the NW conference in March which will be at MMU

This is a fascinating website full of resources and if you drop on the public engagement tab you will find resources info and details of events and school visits, many of them FREE. You can also get posters, brochures and teaching packs which are beautifully produced. Their A1 posters are so glossy and make super displays.  This link takes you to a great one for primary ( but also good for transition)  which you could download but I would send off for the glossy one.

 The BA has a vast archive of resources from previous NSEW booklets to videos and lessons plans. If you are into CREST awards this is the place for you.
You will find all the information about NSEW whch has a new name and logo - BRITISH SCIENCE WEEK. dates are announced here and themes or ideas. It is one of our bookmarked site of course!

 The RSC website has a huge number of resources for primary and secondary - you do sometimes have to hunt around but it is well worth doing!

There is also a dedicated section for teachers TalkChemistry
where you will find lesson plans and videos including our own Primary Science clips. You don't need to be an RSC member but you will need to register ( FREE) with the website to access some.

STEMNET is a great organisation and your local contract holder will have details of all the events in your area. 

Check out the national site and have your local site bookmarked.
We work with Cheshire and MerseySTEM ( all run by the same group) and they have so many events including the Chemistry@work days and for the next few years they will be running the BIG BANG at Aintree. They can put you in contact with STEM ambassadors who offer their time for free and also companies who might be able to help you deliver inspiring science linked to industry.

Make use of what is out there - much of it is FREE and will save you lots of time.
Have fun!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Colour Change Technology

As regular readers will know Science2U likes to play with new technology and share gadgets and gizmos that are out there and available for everyone to get hold of.
In our Chemistry@work days at Daresbury lab we often share our colour change straws - thermochromic plastic

 our heat sensitive paper - thermochromic ink

and our colour change shower curtain  - hydrochromic technology.

Our latest purchase is actually a toddler playmat but it uses hydrochromic colour change technology to allow young children to draw using only water.
Remember those magic painting books where you only used water and colour appeared - well think like that but re-useable!
Our mat is in rainbow colours so using a water filled pen you can draw or using a brush you can paint  and even use stamps on a water mat. Water reveals an almost magical rainbow of colour which eventually fades away as the mat dries. You can see the appeal to parents - no mess and the only consumable is water!

Our idea is to ask the school groups to sign in with a graffitti style tag which we will display throughout the session but by the time the next group arrives it will have dried out and faded ready to be used again.

Along with our UV colour change loom band bracelets

we think we have a winning summer fun session for our last Chem@work day of this acadmic year

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Big Bang Fair North West Aintree 2014


What an amazing day it has been at The Big Bang.
A very early start to arrive at Aintree for about 8.00 to unload and register before setting up our show on the main stage in the Irish Bar in the Princess Royal Stand.
a grey and early start

The stage was in a catwalk style leading into about 100 seats surrounded by other exhibitors and we wondered how we were going to make ourselves heard until we met the lovely guys from the stage crew. We would be wearing head mics - just like you see on TV - and would be able to talk quietly and still be heard.

just about to start - an official picture

We set up our show which we had written for this event - a taster of all the different shows we do but with a definite secondary feel - all linked to the theme I WASN'T EXPECTING THAT!
Once we were set up nerves began to kick in- this was quite a big deal for us...but we sat on the side of the stage and had  quick cup of coffee and ran through the show together and then......everyone started to arrive.
After a quick sound check it was time...we were on.
An opening interactive with two volunteers - the pink and blue colour changing bottles
apparently there is science happening in this bottle

Then a second colour change with our acid and alkali poem The Experiment
A third colour change - the chameleon gave a multi coloured rainbow effect.
Next it was a quick look at some of our smart materials especially the hydrogel balls - there was an overhead camera linked to  a huge screen which gave an incredible view.
over 300"invisible" hydrogel balls are in the tank

We got a whole row of volunteers out to change our thermochromic straws and then we made human circuits with the energy sticks.

Next we got out the dry ice - Helen got a bit carried away and we had foaming cylinders bursting their coloured water all over the tables but it just added to the amazing sight of spooky fog flowing all over the stage - it worked really well.
We made the ice scream with a metal spoon, made huge smoky bubbles and collected some carbon dioxide into a balloon and tried to blow up a teacher,
Our finale was  slime - two lucky volunteers got to make up some snot green gloop and take it home!!

Our show lasted about 25 minutes and then it was a very quick reset before we did it all again......and then again.
Three shows back to back before quickly taking down and handing the stage over to Terry the Viking scientist with his amazing fire show.

We were able to have a quick look around the exhibitions and a wander around the racecourse itself.

One of the fascinating things was just how many people were tweeting  throughout the day.


Finally the day ended with presentations of awards to STEMclubs  for some incredible projects - there are some very clever young people out there.
Well done to all the team at MerseySTEM who organised this event.
I think a lie down is now in order!

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Science of Fireworks

Today we paid a return visit to Knowsley Park Centre for Learning for their annual International Day.

We were China - the science of fireworks.

This time we were in the small lecture theatre with some year 5 pupils from local feeder primary schools.

We explored rockets, sparklers and the ingredients that make gunpowder.
We found out how early fireworks were made,
Here Helen shows how colours are created in fireworks with some volunteers coming out to help

We saw how iron filings make sparkles and how bright magnesium is

We  created a fireball from and unexpected fuel source - milk powder

The whoosh bottle using alcohol as a fuel was a huge surprise and a great success

and then we finished the session by all setting off party poppers - our own little explosion!
Thank you for a brilliant day and for making us so welcome