Guest Scientist in Residence at Irchester – Dr Sean

On Monday 17th November, Dr. Sean Thurston, from the Royal Institution, was our guest scientist-in-residence. Sean is the L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre Technical Coordinator and is also project manager of the RI’s Crystallography Collection. He came in to the lab to help year 5 children answer questions they had about ice, crystals and changing state.

Amber had this to say…I thought that it was a great idea to have a scientist in residence visit the school. He was a fantastic choice. Everyone that worked with Sean loved it!

We made our own salt crystals, and discovered why ice is slippery.

Dr Sean Lab 13

He showed us a picture of the biggest crystals. And he taught us that sometimes crystals, while they form, can change colour. We watched a piece of wire cut through the ice, then it froze over and, if the ice was smaller, Sean could have picked it up by the wire.

Dr Sean Lab_13 3

Dr Sean lab_13

We watched a piece of wire cut through the ice, then it froze over and, if the ice was smaller, Sean could have picked it up by the wire.

The thing I enjoyed the most was attempting to make our own ice crystals. Also, I enjoyed looking at all the things that he bought in, like the ice moulds and seeing the piece of wire going through the ice.

Making Crystals

Making Crystals

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Lab_13 on Tour: Abu Dhabi part 2

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The workshop which I am Team leader for is called Mini Mechanics and it shows kids aged 9-11 a little bit about mechanical engineering – specifically how petrol and diesel engines work. The workshop is in three parts – the anatomy of any engines, the chemistry of combustion and a mini mechanics workshop. Over the course of the festival we will have trained over 2100 children to be mini mech engineers!

The anatomy of an engine section is a little bit fabulous as we have a large cutaway engines. Pieces have been taken off to allow us to see the four stroke cycle in action. When the engine is switched on we can see the pistons moving up and down through the cylinders, the intake and exhaust valves opening and closing and get an idea of the rhythm of a car engine. Then the children learnt the Piston Dance!

The chemistry of combustion is a whistlestop chemistry tour of the energy transfers inside the engine. Knowing that energy cannot be created or destroyed but only transferred from one type to another, this demo set shows the kids how to harness potential chemical energy from fuel and turn it into kinetic energy.

The mini mechanics workshops is a space where the kids get hands-on with their new knowledge and deconstruct a petrol engine using real tools and working their way through a set of challenges. This is most children’s favorite part as they get to do it for themselves and are allowed to choose the right tools for the right job – just like real mechanical engineers!

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Guest S.I.R Number 4 – Dr Sarah Bearchell

On Friday 14th November, Dr Sarah Bearchell was our guest scientist-in-residence. Sarah recently won the Josh Award 2014, an award established to recognise and support up-and-coming talent in science communication. As part of the award, she is the Manchester Science Festival Science Communicator in Residence for one year. Sarah visited the lab to have some dry ice fun with years 1 and 2.

When we went to Lab_13 with Dr Sarah we learnt all about clouds. We made clouds out of mixing dry ice and hot water and we learnt that a gas called carbon dioxide is produced, which looks like clouds. We were told all about the different types of clouds that you can get.

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‘It was fantastic as it looked like real clouds!’ – Amy Valle-Horne (year 1)

‘When I felt the cloud it was cold and wet.’ Izzy Orson (year 1)

‘If I blew into the clouds it made it go into a s

wirling pattern.’ Vincent West (year 2)

Next we tried to create a tornado by blowing into it. We also made bubbles with clouds inside them. We all had a fantastic time and learnt so much about what clouds really are, as some of us thought they were made out of cotton wool!!

SB- Lab13

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Presenting Guest S.I.R Irchester – Nesh Patel

On Thursday 13th November, physicist Nesh Patel visited year 6 to discuss space, black holes and astrophysics. This is what Year 6 had to say…

We learnt that if life is possible (and it is because we exist), other life forms should be out there, somewhere really far away in another galaxy. Furthermore, if we were to travel to another galaxy and look onto earth with a SUPER powerful telescope, we would see ancient people instead of the modern world.

As stars burn they could get smaller and turn into white dwarves, or they could get bigger and bigger. When they finally die, gravity wins and they implode infinitely deep, creating a black hole. When stars implode it causes an explosion, this is when the star goes into supernova. When a star goes into supernova it’s hotter than all of the heat it produced in its ENTIRE life time! The only pictures of black holes we have are artist impressions of it.

The average black hole (believe it or not) is ten times heavier than the sun: the size of half of Northampton yet still the mass of ten suns.

If anything goes near a black hole there is so much gravity it gets sucked towards it. If you were getting sucked into a black hole you could not run away because not even LIGHT can escape. That means you would have to travel faster than light which isn’t possible because of the laws of physics.Space Blog 1 (insert)

‘The most exciting part was when Nesh told us the different speeds needed for different objects to get off Earth, Jupiter and the Moon.’ Harvey.

‘I couldn’t believe how fast light travelled,’ Finley

‘I thought the pictures Nesh showed us of different galaxies were amazing.’ Adam.

I enjoyed the pictures of the galaxies and black holes,’ Keira and Chloe.  space 2 - feature

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2nd Guest Scientist-In-Residence – Dr Suze Kundu

On Wednesday 12th November, Dr. Sujata Kundu, from Imperial College in London, was our guest scientist-in-residence. She is a doctor of Materials Science and she visited years 1 and 2 to investigate different materials.

In class, we played ‘Guess the material’. All the class closed their eyes and one of us had to pull a material from a box and describe it. The rest of the class had to guess which material it was.

Then we decided which materials were man-made and which were natural.

In the lab, we tested the strength of different materials. We broke chocolate bars while they were still in the wrapper. It made a snapping noise.

We made a tower of spaghetti and jelly babies and worked as a team to make our towers.



“To make the building stronger we built it as a cross shape” Poppy

“My spaghetti and jelly babies were built into a pyramid shape. The trick to get more jelly babies was to break them in half” Freya


Lab_13 Irchester


“My tower was the tallest.” Evia

“We had a chance to ask loads of questions which Dr Suze could answer.” Mikey

Lab 13 Suze


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1st Guest Scientist-In-Residence At Irchester – Dr Erinma Ochu

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On Tuesday 11th November, Dr. Erinma Ochu, a Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow, was our guest scientist-in-residence. She is currently exploring how the public can participate in biomedical research, and came into the lab to help some of our children answer … Continue reading

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Being Scientific with Slugs!

On a very miserable and rainy day, (yesterday) Chloe asked Carole a question. Her question was: How long would it take a slug to reach one mile? So early in the day, Carole took her and some other kids out to do some investigating. It was a very cold and a bit foggy, but they still went slug hunting! They explored the wild life garden and peered under rocks and logs, but they found no slugs, only thousands (I am only exaggerating for dramatic effect) of slimy snails under damp logs. They hurried to the fab lab with the snails and went to investigate inside because of the freezing weather. They timed the snail with a stopwatch until it reached the end of a metre stick.

The snail travelling along the metre stick.

The snail travelling along the metre stick.

It took 12 minutes and 36 seconds. That was impressive for a snail to reach the end of a metre stick. They then did some amazing maths to work out how long it would have taken for the snail to travel 1 mile. Here are their calculations:

The children's calculations

The children’s calculations

Written by Aisha, Y5

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