Phase 1 of 'Explore your Universe: Atoms to Astrophysics' ran for 2 years from 2012 - 2014 and was a great success. 156,880 children and adults took part at ten science and discovery centres and two STFC facilities. Over 45,852 participants met a space scientist, physicist or engineer discussing all sorts of science topics as well as how they got into their careers.
The Phase 1 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 is an exceptional set of equipment and informal learning resources which have now been well tested, fine tuned and fully evaluated.
ASDC 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 and provided written resources including a handbook and website detailing a large range of experiments that could be carried out by the science centres.
ASDC delivered equipment to these science centres including: a solar telescope, a cloud chamber, a thermal imaging camera, meteorites, levitating magnets (using superconductors), an iPad pre-loaded with lots of great apps and even a mini-demonstration of a particle accelerator using a Van de Graaff generator!
The independent evaluation by King's College London examined the impact on the first 3,883 students and 369 teachers (4895 people) who took part in the activities, making it the UK's largest multi-centre dataset of the impact of informal science learning.
One notable finding was that 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. This programme fully supports the Government's new initiative to get more girls into physics an engineering and can be used flexibly to support this and other widening participation initiatives.
Excellent and innovative science is vital to the UK's future economic success as well as our health and well-being. This project 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.
Phase 2 of Explore Your Universe ran from 2014 - 2016 and reached another 184,834 people.
This brought the total for the programme to 341,714 across 23 centres in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Phase 2 trained 10 new organisations as part of this dynamic and diverse network to bring amazing stories and technologies from the physical sciences to more girls and boys, men and women across the UK, and support the nation's engagement with the latest in the physical sciences.
Phase 3 is currently underway and being delivered across the UK, reaching families, communities and schools in disadvantaged communities and those geographically remote form STEM opporunities.
"Explore Your Universe has been one of the best projects we have worked on. The kit we received is of the highest quality and has been commented on by science teachers. They are greatly enthused about the demonstrations they can carry out which cannot take place in their classrooms. Teachers have also reported that their pupils are really enthusiastic about the workshops - even those that are usually uninterested in science. I would congratulate the team that created this project - it has become one of our best received projects."
- Louise Smith, Chief Executive, Dundee Science Centre
"Explore Your Universe forms an excellent bridge between the cutting edge research and development of STFC and the varied learning environments of the science centres involved."
- Kierann Shah, Project Manager, National Space Academy
"Taking part in EYU has boosted our offer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich by giving us access to top class equipment that we could not usually justify would not usually have. One of the most important and useful things that this project has done is it has created new links between science and discovery centres and also working scientists in various institutions around the county allowing us all to quickly and regularly share best practice. This is something that is invaluable when working in the busy world of science and discovery centres."
- Liz Roche, Education Manager, Royal Observatory Greenwich
"Explore Your Universe has enabled us to capture the imaginations of our visitors through inspiring and challenging science demonstrations. From meteorites and thermal imaging to solar telescopes and atomic cloud chambers, the resources have been awe-inspiring and highly effective at grabbing the attention of our visitors. The support and training from the ASDC has been invaluable and the opportunity for us to engage in a UK-wide partnership to engage people of all ages in science is something we would be keen to continue in the future."
-Stephen Breslin, Chief Executive, Glasgow Science Centre
Quotes from The Academic Evaluation of the programme by King's College
"It has opened my eyes to ways in which we can extend and alter our offer to educational groups and the general public."
"Being able to present our visitors with cutting edge information has increased our position as a place where people can engage with CURRENT science"
"It has been a great chance for me to embark on a project with many different elements safe in the knowledge that there has been a good level of support available from [my institution] ASDC and other science centres involved."