In 2013, students from the University’s Department of Engineering Sciences teamed up with the Museum of the History of Science in an exciting new project focussing on public engagement funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering under its Ingenious programme for public engagement.
The project aimed to capitalise on the Museum’s remarkable collection of inventive artefacts whilst enabling young engineers to gain practical experience in public engagement bringing their knowledge and enthusiasm to the Museum’s diverse audiences.
A total of 18 engineers, mainly graduate students, were involved in the project including a group of biomedical engineers. After a series of training sessions in methods of public engagement and museum object handling which were supported by the Joint Museums’ Volunteers Service, the students devised activities for a family day in March as part of National Science and Engineering Week 2013, an event which attracted over 2,000 visitors. This was followed by a schools’ event and two further whole day events for schools in June involving 160 students from local secondary schools. Activities ranged from experimenting with gyroscopes and Stirling engines, to steam pumps and mobile medical devices.
What the student engineers said about their experience:
‘The training course helped me better understand different learning styles and made me feel more confident when engaging with visitors’
‘The fact than it was the Museum of the History of Science was an excellent opportunity to engage public with facts of both history (artefacts) and contemporary science (demonstrations)’
‘The organization of the event (family day) was superb and the level of support by museum staff in preparing activities was amazing and pushed us to engage visitors in a creative way.’
‘I have gained a lot of public speaking experience and talked to a wide range of audiences about something that relates to my work. Educating children also made me feel confident in what I do’
‘I really liked the sessions leading up to the events – great chance to discuss methods of engaging. The fact that there were different types of events (family/schools) was very exciting because you could make changes to the depending on the audience’
A full account and evaluation of the project is available as a pdf download: