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Junior boffins take science to the masses at Cambridge Science Festival Schools Zone

Can woodlice be trained, do toys stop you fidgeting and could you work out whodunit are just some of the questions posed by student boffins in this year’s Cambridge Science Festival Schools Zone.

This Saturday (25 March) sees the biggest ever Schools Zone with students from 13 secondary schools and sixth form colleges showcasing their scientific successes.

Acting as experts for the day, students will display their science, technology, engineering or maths projects from lessons and science clubs to members of the public and members of the University of Cambridge.

Student sleuths from Ely College will invite visitors to carry out a series of forensic tests, ranging from DNA extraction to toxin analysis, to identify which one of four suspects is a criminal mastermind. Visitors will be asked to analyse a hair, a sample of liquid and an unidentified toxin to work out whodunit.

Meanwhile, Swavesey Village College pupils will investigate whether bugs can be bribed, as they try to train woodlice to defy their natural behaviour. Visitors will be invited to join in the experiment to see if woodlice can associate a particular stimulus with a reward, predicting findings on a decision tree.

Those seeking to improve their powers of concentration may find the answer in Sawtry Village Academy’s research into fidget toys, used to develop fine motor skills, focus, tactile awareness and visual perception. Students will examine the effect a fidget toy has on how much a person can concentrate on school work.

There’s also a chance to get in touch with your creative side, as pupils from Parkside Community College’s science club demonstrate how to make a lava lamp, and create art with milk, as well as inviting visitors to experience static electricity.

One of last year’s most popular exhibits returns, too - the Goblin Racing Car. The project has introduced pupils from St Faith’s School to theoretical and practical engineering, giving them the opportunity to build, test, modify and race a battery-powered racing car. 

As part of the Cambridge Science Festival – the UK’s largest free science festival – the family-friendly Schools Zone attracted hundreds of visitors last year.  This year is expected to attract an even larger pool of visitors, hopeful of seeing the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians as they bring a different kind of interactive fun to the Festival.

Festival spokesperson Sue Long said: “The Schools Zone gives students the chance to show off the amazing things they are doing either in Science class or after-school activities. Last year’s Schools Zone was a huge success and we expect this year’s event to be even more exciting and inspiring.”

The Schools Zone will be held at the Hauser Forum on the West Cambridge Site on Saturday 25 March 2017 from 11am to 3pm.


The full list of schools and colleges taking part in the Schools Zone is:

Bancroft’s School, Woodford Green, Essex.
Chesterton Community College, Cambridge.
Ely College, Ely.
Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge.
Kimbolton School, Kimbolton, Huntingdon.
Linton Village College, Cambridge.
Parkside Community College, Cambridge.
Perse School, Cambridge.
Sawston Village College, Sawston.
Sawtry Village Academy, Huntingdon.
St Faith’s School, Cambridge.
Stamford High School, Stamford, Lincolnshire
Swavesey Village College, Swavesey.

Cambridge Science Festival brings science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine to an audience of all ages through demonstrations, talks, performances and debates. Run by the University of Cambridge, the Festival draws together independent organisations in addition to many University Departments, Centres and Museums.

This year’s Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Illumina, TTP Group, Science AAAS, Anglia Ruskin University, Microsoft Research, FameLab, Babraham Institute, Wellcome Genome Campus, Napp, Alzheimer’s Research UK, The Institute of Engineering and Technology, UTC Cambridge, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge Junction, British Science Week, Cambridge Live, and BBC Cambridgeshire.