A long-running university outreach project which aims to get young people interested in Science has been delivered in a school for the first time.

The Inspiring Minds project, run by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU), has been out on the road to Astor School in Dover, helping to engage pupils from Year 10 in Science.

The project is usually run over six sessions to a maximum cohort of 75 students from several different schools – however, organisers are now looking at ways to expand the project to work with more students and across more year groups, reaching more students from Kent and Medway.

The 2-hour ‘pilot’ roadshow session at Astor School saw their whole Year 10 cohort undertaking one of the sessions from the Inspiring Minds project. Students took part in group and practical activities aimed at improving their understanding of STEM career pathways and inspiring them to consider a career in Science.

Clare Blackman, Assistant Head at Astor School, said, “We work very closely with KMPF and our local universities, so it was great to have the opportunity to run this workshop as part of our industry-focused careers programme.

“It was a really interesting session, which got the students to think about the impact of artificial intelligence on our lives. They then built a ‘bristle Bot’ motorised robot using toothbrush heads.”

She added, “The students very much enjoyed working with the lecturer Finley and student ambassadors from the university and learning more about their different degree choices.”

A Year 10 student from Astor said, “I really enjoyed this morning as it was very engaging. It piqued my interest in programming technology. They explained a series of technology and we even got to create our own robots. Mine didn’t work but it was super fun watching my friend’s robots dance.”

Set up in 2018 by Stefan Colley and Finley Lawson, Inspiring Minds has now become the flagship outreach programme at CCCU and has been hailed as an example of good practice in outreach by government reports. Funded by Kent and Medway Collaborative Outreach Programme (KaMCOP), part of the national UniConnect project, Inspiring Minds is now entering its sixth year.

The project aims to build ‘science capital’ in young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – getting them interested in science through giving them the chance to take part in an exciting real-world project. The students have access to university lecturers and student ambassadors throughout and are given free transport to remove any financial barriers.

More than 400 young people across Kent and Medway have taken part in the project to date with the project evaluation finding improvements in both students’ aspirations and attainment – as well shifting attitudes towards studying STEM subjects at the post-16 level and beyond.

Students from Year 10 can apply for the programme, which will start again in September 2022, taking part in six informal science learning sessions over several weeks outside of school time.

Stefan Colley, KaMCOP Project Manager at CCCU, explained, “We believe science doesn’t just happen in the science classroom.

“The success of this project has only been possible because of the collaboration between outstanding academics, backed up by dedicated delivery officers and administration staff here at Canterbury Christ Church University, partnership working with KMPF hub staff linking with engaged schools and college staff and the young participants themselves who embarked on this journey and became Inspiring Minds Scholars!

“We are delighted with how well Inspiring Minds has developed over the last four years. We are all so proud of the amazing young people who have participated in the programme so far and look forward to working with many more – especially as we are now working with schools and colleges to expand Inspiring Minds through our roadshows and sustained activity projects. We look forward to working with more year groups, ages and different audiences.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the Inspiring Minds project or booking a session should contact KMPF for more information in the first instance. 

Lucy King

25 Feb 2022

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