Chaos Cabaret Competition - Southwest Pilot

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences


To communicate that being a scientist is about taking an open-ended journey towards an unknown destination as well as mastering a specific area of existing knowledge, and that theories which have first been proposed to explain scientific phenomena can also find applications in many other disciplines.

To create an intervention that makes pupils (Key Stage 3; 11 - 14 years old) aware of Chaos Theory and its implications principally in the field of physics but also in the many other areas where its operation is demonstrable. Thus combining the significance of Chaos Theory to research funded by the STFC and connecting physics to everyday experience.

To secure participation of 20 secondary schools in the Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire and Somerset region in chaos workshops, with a view to 600 pupils participating in the project.

To generate at least 20 entries to the competition.

Overall, the project seeks to counter-balance the tendency in the national curriculum to present science as a pre-existing and unchanging body of knowledge. A collection of facts to be learned. This concept of science as fact has come under increasing criticism, and even accused of being one of the main reasons young people turn away from science and scientific careers. Yet the National Curriculum has failed to engage fully with the exploratory nature of science.

This pilot project will create and test an intervention designed specifically to introduce young people to the open-ended journey of discovery that scientists undertake, offering a counter perspective to that promulgated in the national curriculum. Through carefully designed workshops and short films of our existing STFC funded project on public engagement with chaos theory, this project will not only highlight the variety of fields in which chaos theory plays an important role (e.g. from financial markets to medicine), but also encourage young people to create their own open-ended journey of discovery. This journey will be supported by opportunities to question physicists as well as a competion to create a physics inspired journey that starts with a butterfly flapping its wings and ends with a tornado. Thus, the project seeks to offer young people an opportunity to experience what it is like to be a scientist and to meet and question scientists through the I'm a Scientist platform.

Through these tools, the project seeks to change pupils' opinions of what scientists do and the role that science plays in society and supporting their interest in science. We have chosen to target Key Stage 3 (years 7 - 9) because this appears to be a crucial age group in terms of intentions to study science at higher levels. At the end of year 9, some pupils will already have chosen to options that may make it more difficult for them to study science at A level and beyond. Thus, the intervention is designed to support young people's learning and interest through this crucial period. As a pilot project, we will evaluate the impact of the project on pupils interest in science and their understanding of what scientists do, as well as identifying how best a project of this nature could be rolled out at national level.

Planned Impact

Recruitment of Schools to the Workshops/Competition

Graphic Science, the STEMnet provider for Bristol, Bath, Somerset and Gloucestershire, will lead on recruitment of schools to the development workshops, using their extensive schools network. Graphic Science will also use their networks to recruit STEM Ambassadors to run these schools workshops.

Gallomanor will use their extensive networks and database of interested to schools to attract participants to the Chaos Zone of I'm A Scientist. While some of these schools will be outside our target geography for the pilot workshops and competition, it will create a general buzz and interest for the programme. Furthermore, Gallomanor do have participating schools within the target region and are able to approach these schools directly to participate, not only in the I'm a Scientist aspect of the project, but also to participate in the regional workshops and competitions.

The Science Communication Unit and UWE Schools Liaison Team have strong links with schools in the target region and will use these to recruit schools to participate in the workshops and competition.

Together these contacts and routes will ensure that the target of 20 participating schools is reached.

Wider Dissemination
The UWE press office will support wider communication within the region, using both traditional (e.g. media relations) and social media (e.g. Twitter). This will be complemented by promotional activity carried out by the Science Communication Unit staff, who maintain personal social media accounts as well as the Science Communication Unit social media accounts. For example the Robots vs Animals Twitter account, managed by Corra Buschel, has been very successful in promoting this public and schools based project managed within the Unit. This will ensure reach to the wider Science Communication community, educators and the local community.

Access to resources
The Science Communication Unit will host all materials produced for the project on it's website, ensuring that the workshop materials are available for others to access.

The national and international reputations of the Science Communication Unit, Gallomanor, Graphic Science, and Aardman Animations will also create an audience for the project from communication professionals in many spheres and raise its profile across a number of different expert communities.

Dissemination to academic and policy communities
The evaluation report for the project will be made available (open-access) through the UWE Research Repository and will also be archived in the Collective Memory Website maintained by the British Science Association. Where appropriate, publication will also be considered in a peer-reviewed journal (particularly focused on the physics community). The evaluation findings will be submitted to the biannual Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference in 2016.


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Description Chaos II School Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Production of materials for STEM Ambassadors to use when working in schools. The materials were produced and tested with STEM ambassadors and are now being used by the local STEM Ambassador contract provider when training postgraduate students. Activities have taken place with a Math's CDT and are planned with a Chemical Engineering CDT. Further opportunities are planned in 2017. It is hard to track how this feeds directly into engagements with schools, however, as there is limited opportunity to follow up with the postgraduate students. The materials are also available to the STEM Ambassadors registered with the training provider.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016