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Women in Science Outreach Event

6 February 2017

On the 16th November 2016, a team from the School of Clinical Sciences took part in an outreach event to celebrate women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Maths (STEMM).

Around 100 children from local secondary schools were invited to participate in a number of live science demonstrations held in the Anson room at the University of Bristol’s Students Union Building.  Staff and students from across the University organized the live science demonstrations with children actively encouraged to ask questions and take part.

A team of female PhD and postdoctoral research scientists represented the School of Clinical Sciences, together with the School Lead for Women in Science, Dr Denize Atan.  Pupils were invited to make a model of a heart from blue and red playdough to show the 4 chambers of the heart and the passage of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood through the great vessels to the lungs and back.  They also had the chance to learn about the function of the placenta during pregnancy, to model the vasculature with playdough and find out how the placenta supports the developing embryo during pregnancy.  Most popular of all, the pupils had the opportunity to make a working model of the human lung out of a plastic bottle, straw, balloon and some bin liner, which they could take home with them.  The balloon represented the lungs inside the “chest” created by a plastic bottle, cut in half.  A “diaphragm”, cut to size from a black plastic bin liner, sealed the bottom of the bottle, and a straw attached to the balloon and passed through the mouth of the bottle, recreated the trachea.  All was made airtight with a combination of lots of sellotape and playdough!  The pupils could then see how pulling the diaphragm downwards, created a vacuum in the chest that allowed the lungs to expand.

The pupils we met had fun with us learning about science, research and medicine, and many asked insightful questions about the physiology we were modelling and also about careers in STEMM subjects.

After the live science demonstrations, the pupils were given a tour of the University campus and then listened to a series of inspirational talks by women in STEMM including Professor Kate Nobes, Rebecca McCourt, and Dr Suzi Gage.

Many thanks to Helen Williams, Ashleigh Bignell, and Khadija Ourradi for their invaluable contributions toward planning and taking part in the event. 

In preparation for this event, we made large batches of homemade playdough in different colours and collected 100 plastic bottles (all of which was recycled responsibly after the event).  Many thanks to everyone involved and their invaluable recipe tips for making some great playdough.  

Further information

Please contact Dr Denize Atan if you would like to get involved in any outreach events in the future or to find out our secret playdough recipe. 

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