We will engage primary age students with the subject of light through a series of activities in their classroom. Through exposure at an early age, our intention is to inspire the students to think about science as a real career and life choice. We will educate the children about important, counter-intuitive properties of light and will familiarize them with the nature of scientific work, in places such as the Central Laser Facility.
We will educate the students about important properties of light that underpin the PI's research work, such as the spectrum of light and frequency mixing processes. We will also explain how these properties are crucial for Astronomy. For instance, by analogy with the Doppler Effect in sound, we will demonstrate how the Relativistic Doppler Effect in light can be used to discover exo-planets. This will be done with the help of a humanoid robot. Moreover, we will emphasize that the Relativistic Doppler Effect constitutes the only real way for us to measure distances beyond the local Universe, to study the expansion of the Universe and the rotation of galaxies.
Furthermore, we aim to provide a hands-on introduction to the principles behind, and the work involved in, operating systems such as the Astra laser at the Central Laser Facility in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The children will be involved in building laser setups and in various activities to help them develop an understanding of light's wavelength/frequency and frequency mixing.
Our activities aim to appeal to both genders. We will increase the confidence and skill of the children in successfully handling real scientific equipment and tools, regardless of gender. We will also improve awareness of scientific careers as, during the visits to schools, the PI will be accompanied by both a female and a male PhD student.
In the present context of government funding restrictions, the public needs understanding and trust in publicly-funded science. Often, the science being developed at publicly-funded facilities may seem remote and counter-intuitive. We aim to show that counter-intuitive science can be not only understandable but also fascinating and accessible to primary school children. Our message is thus not only limited to the classroom but to their families as well, which we believe is very important for the sake of scientific accountability and transparency. Moreover, parental influence plays a strong role in students' subject choices, and hence engaging parents will contribute to engaging children too.
An important aim for this project is to motivate our PhD students by engaging them in this public outreach project, in order for the students to feel valued and recognized. They will also improve their communication skills and will be taking a leading role in the outreach by supervising/guiding individual activities and asking/answering questions.
We aim to create partnerships between scientists at the University of Bath and educators within local primary schools. In the future, these partnerships are expected to grow through additional outreach activities (by the PI and his colleagues) and through Royal Society Partnership Grants projects. This project will lead to more participation from local schools in the yearly Bath Taps into Science festival, which is aimed at primary schools. Working with teachers increases the reach of students and can give a more embedded impact in schools.