The STEMNET Case Study (part 4)

On average, how much time do you commit to STEM Ambassador activities? 

I work full time in a university and they support my ambassador activities up to a point. However, I love doing STEM ambassador activities and rarely decline them. Sometimes the activities can spread over a few days, such as at the Big Bang Fairs and similar festivals. Yet, others can just take an hour. Remember that you can share something inspirational in two minutes and sometimes, that’s all that is needed.

Describe the latest activity you were involved in: What was your role in this activity? What were you responsible for? 

The last few months have been over the festival season. I spent three days at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, demonstrating for the British Psychological Society but also for the BBC, with the Bang Goes The Theory team. This latter opportunity came from a STEMnet call on Twitter for volunteers to assist in the BBC interactive area. It wasn’t long before I was found science busking behind ‘Dr. Yan’s table’. Many further opportunities have arisen from this as I have continued with them on tour around the UK, culminating at the Cheltenham Science Festival, which also involved a little ‘celebrity wrangling’.

I recently joined the Royal Society of Chemistry as a volunteer at the West Midlands Big Bang fair. With nothing but kitchen equipment and ingredients from the pantry I demonstrated how we examine the properties of the gases around us. Working with other teams often means that somebody has already carried out risk assessments and the sourcing equipment so following simple guidelines relieves much of the preparatory work. After a short briefing on these matters, it is a delight to focus on the demonstrating.

Undertaking your own activities is equally rewarding but harder work. For instance, I delivered the opening session at a sixth form conference where I demonstrated how resonance works on many levels from the nuclei up. Rather than this being a busking method where you aim to demonstrate quickly, this session required a theme to be developed with interactive demonstrations at regular intervals to highlight the applications of the theory. Of course, when you undertake your own activities, it becomes your responsibility to organise your equipment and safety. Ask questions of the hosts, do they have a sockets, projector, laptop, table, chairs or space? What do you need? What items are you bringing with you that require set up and how long will it take? You need to think of everything and ask every question.