Monday, February 29, 2016

Careers Days at University of York and Middlesbrough STEM Centre

CIEC’s final 2015-16 Careers Days for 11-14 year olds take place on 3 and 10 March[1] in Middlesbrough and York respectively. They will build on the success of the previous four events, all sponsored by COGENT, for 14-16 year olds and post-16 students. The York events take place in University’s Science Outreach Centre, housed in the Department of Chemistry, and the Middlesbrough events are being kindly hosted by the brand new Middlesbrough STEM Centre at Middlesbrough College.
The aim of the day is to increase awareness of careers in the STEM industries by engaging students in practical workshops that demonstrate how science is applied in real life, and are delivered by industry partners and academic colleagues.
Investigating Gaviscon

The two morning workshops are delivered by staff and students from the University, and focus on two areas – spectroscopy and liquid crystals.
The two afternoon workshops in York are being delivered by Smith and Nephew, Croda International, and Reckitt Benckiser. Dave Farrar (Smith & Nephew) challenged students to investigate the forces needed to remove sticking plasters from a variety of surfaces, whilst students made and marketed hand cream for Croda, and explored properties of Gaviscon with Reckitt Benckiser.

Sticking plaster activity

 An example of one of the University led activities is based on IR analysis of oil samples as used during Formula 1 races.
Students are presented with unknown samples of oils as if they had collected them from a spill on
the garage floor. They run each sample on the IR spectrometer and generate spectra which they then match to the spectra of various fluids (gear oil, brake fluid, engine oil, power steering fluid and windscreen
washer) to identify the source of the mystery 'spill'. Annie Hodgson, Schools Liaison and Outreach Officer at York, designed this activity.

In a parallel activity, students set up and conduct an experiment comparing the viscosity of engine oil to other, non-crude-oil-derived types of oil (castor, sunflower, etc). The aim of the activity is to find a blend of vegetable oils that matches the viscosity of the engine oil at room temperature, as a potentially green replacement. They are provided with dropping pipettes and a runway with an adjustable height platform to run the liquids down, and determine suitable conditions for themselves to ensure a fair test.
Measuring viscosity
 Cliff Porter said, "These workshops are a great opportunity for students to meet professional scientists and see how school science relates to real-world applications. They also highlight some of the opportunities offered by careers in STEM-related areas."
Spectroscopy workshop

 [1] If you are interested in the next Careers Days on 3rd March in York or 10th March in Middlesbrough, please contact CIEC at