‘Explore your Universe’ is an exciting new national project celebrating the physical sciences developed by The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
The aim of Explore Your Universe is to ‘inspire a sense of excitement amongst young people around the physical sciences by sharing the amazing stories and technologies of STFC’.
STFC’s work is broad and far-reaching, touching on everything from fundamental research into the elementary building blocks of matter, to using pioneering technology to gaze out at our universe and investigate the birth of galaxies, with almost everything in between.
Explore your Universe began in 2012, and its initial phase was a great success. 156,880 children and adults took part at ten science and discovery centres and two STFC facilities in the first year. Over 50,000 participants met space scientists, physicists, engineers and technicians with their families or schools discussing all sorts of science topics as well as how they got into their careers. In 2014 the programme entered into its second phase with five new Science and Discovery Centres and 5 Universities taking part. Phase two engaged a further 184,834 children and adults with schools workshops, and family activities and shows across the UK. Phase 3 of the programme is just about to launch, enhancing the reach of the programme.
This national programme was developed by ASDC in partnership with experts from the National Space Centre and Jodrell Bank. Scientists and engineers from STFC facilities and UK universities were also involved, ensuring the quality of the science. Central to the programme was an exceptional set of equipment and informal learning resources that have now been well tested, fine-tuned and fully evaluated.
In Phase 1 and 2 we selected, trained and supported ten UK science and discovery centres to run a range of cutting-edge physics and engineering schools workshops, family shows and meet-the-expert events.
The independent evaluation of Phase 1 by King’s College London examined the impact on the first 3,883 students and 369 teachers who took part in the workshops, making it the UK’s largest multi-centre dataset of the impact of informal science learning. Phase 2 of the programme was independently evaluated by Professor Justin Dillon at the University of Bristol.
One notable finding was this physics programme had been very successful in inspiring interest in both girls and boys in equal measure. 56% of girls and boys aged 10-13 said the workshop made them feel more interested in studying science, and 41% said it had made them more likely to consider a career in science. This effect was found after just one hour of experiments and discussions.
Building on the successes of Explore Your Universe, phase two widened the programme to invite more organisations to take part, sharing contemporary research stories through hands-on activities. Explore Your Universe now has a diverse and dynamic network of science centres, museums, universities and others, all striving to achieve the project’s vision.
The programme offers a fantastic set of flexible equipment, workshops and shows, a dynamic network, a cohesive evaluation programme, and training and support for all those involved to share the brilliant stories of contemporary research around the Physical Sciences in the UK and beyond.
Excellent and innovative science is vital to the UK’s future economic success as well as our health and well-being. This programme aligns with many organisation’s recognition of the importance of nurturing the curiosity and inventiveness of our young people, and especially in increasing young peoples’ awareness of the fantastically inspiring and fruitful careers open to them, should they continue their science and mathematics studies. As a network we have a great opportunity to open up physics and engineering to all.