Tag: UK

Rookie research: When school science gets ‘real’ – BBC News

Image caption Dr James Geach hopes primary pupils could make new discoveries

Modern science produces so much data that scientists can’t cope with it all – so why not enlist schoolchildren to help?

The new Sky Explorers club at Wheatfields Junior School in St Albans is making use of a night sky camera which has been installed on the building’s roof.

“I am really looking forward to doing all the great stuff we are going to do with the camera,” says eight-year-old Cameron. “Looking at space is really exciting.”

Throughout the night, the camera takes a long exposure shot of the whole sky once a minute and the resulting thousands of images are made into a time-lapse film for the children to view the next day.

The club members will be on the look-out for shooting stars or meteors and will log where they appear, their direction and the time and send the data to the international All Sky Camera network.

Image copyright UoH Bayfordbury Observatory
Image caption Meteors show up as bright streaks of light across the night sky

Dr Jim Geach, a senior lecturer and research fellow at University of Hertfordshire’s School of Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics, has shown them what to look for – the long bright lines across the sky produced by meteors as they enter the atmosphere – and how to distinguish them from planes from nearby Luton airport.

Eggs and lemons

Dr Geach, who studies galaxies, also has a second task for the children, directly related to his own research.

He plans to give the children access to images from the Subaru telescope on Hawaii, which takes pictures of deep space, to look for interesting or unusual looking galaxies. “Some of them will not have been seen before and could be very exciting,” he says.

He will come to the school every two weeks to run the club, answer the children’s questions and evaluate their research.

Image caption Some galaxies are lemon-shaped, said Dr Geach

The project has been funded by a grant of almost 3,000 from the Royal Society, the UK’s science academy.

“If they find anything, scientists will be interested,” says Dr Geach.

This kind of engagement by scientists with primary pupils is “one of the things we need to do, as this age is when you can really get them switched on as scientists”, he adds.

Image copyright NAOJ/HSC Collaboration
Image caption The Subaru telescope takes images of galaxies in deep space

This view has strong support from Dr Becky Parker, director of the Institute for Research in Schools, which runs classroom projects involving scientists from the International Space Station, Nasa and the Large Hadron Collider, among others.

“Students get a diet of quite factual based science in school and yet they have the potential to contribute,” she says.

“Why not involve them in doing real science? Teachers find it keeps them inspired and keeps them right at the cutting edge of their subjects.

“Young people don’t necessarily just become clever when they get to university. Let them contribute when they are at school.”

The Royal Society offers about 20 grants a year to universities and schools wanting to collaborate on research.

“It’s all about letting as many schools as possible experience the creative core of science,” says Tom McLeish, professor of physics at Durham University and chairman of the society’s education committee.

Too often a lack of resources in schools makes encountering real science very difficult.

“But, for example, you would be appalled if students had never put pen to paper when doing art GCSE, or never made any kind of music while doing music A-level.

“If all you have done is learn the facts of what biology or chemistry have shown us, you haven’t actually engaged with what it is.

“We are passionately committed to making sure that pupils get as rich an experience of science as we possibly can.”

‘Exciting and relevant’

Nearing the end of their school careers, sixth formers at The King’s Academy in Middlesbrough have been chosen to showcase their experiments on the possibility of mimicking the way plants use sunlight to make hydrogen fuel from water at this summer’s Royal Society Summer Exhibition in London.

They hope their work on artificial photosynthesis, in conjunction with Teesside University, could pave the way for a new method of producing hydrogen gas to run cars and fuel cells.

For the last few months the teenagers have spent Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons synthesising chemicals at the university laboratories, working with equipment their school could never afford.

Image copyright Teesside University
Image caption Nazmin Akhtar, 17, hopes the project will boost the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells

Nazmin Akhtar, 17, described how the team developed catalysts able to “split water to produce oxygen and to create the hydrogen gas which is the fuel”.

“Obviously we are running out of fossil fuels now, so we need to find new ways of making fuel and sustaining the environment,” she says.

“I love learning about renewable fuels – it is one of my passions. I am so glad I chose to do this project.”

Her chemistry teacher Brian Casson says the opportunity to work on a project as “exciting and relevant as this” had widened his students’ horizons.

“It’s been such an eye-opening thing for them… I hope it will turn them into scientists for the future. It really has given them a vision of what science is about.”

Teesside University lecturer Dr Anna Reynal, who has been working on artificial photosynthesis for six years, says the students are experiencing real research.

“This has not been done many times and we don’t know what the result is going to be. We don’t know that it’s going to work.”

Back at Wheatfields, Dr Geach warns the Sky Explorers that unexpected results can pave the way to new knowledge.

“One of the most important things about science is making mistakes,” he says. “There are no wrong answers.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-40125352

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UK schoolboy corrects Nasa data error – BBC News

Media captionMiles Soloman tells Radio 4’s World At One how he discovered something the Nasa experts missed

A British teenager has contacted scientists at Nasa to point out an error in a set of their own data.

A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data.

The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was “pretty cool” to email the space agency.

The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Miles told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was being recorded.

But you cannot get negative energy. So Miles and Mr O’Neill contacted Nasa.

“It’s pretty cool”, Miles said. “You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they’re looking at the graphs that I’ve made.”

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including the Nasa experts.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year.

Miles had found it was actually happening multiple times a day.

Image copyright NASA

Prof Larry Pinksy, from the University of Houston, told Radio 4: “My colleagues at Nasa thought they had cleaned that up.

“This underscores – I think – one of the values of the IRIS projects in all fields with big data. I’m sure there are interesting things the students can find that professionals don’t have time to do.”

The professor – who works with Nasa on radiation monitors – said the correction was “appreciated more so than it being embarrassing”.

What do Miles’ friends think of his discovery?

“They obviously think I’m a nerd,” the sixth-former said. “It’s really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details.”

He added: “I’m not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them.”

The director of IRIS, Prof Becky Parker, said this sort of “expansion of real science in the classroom” could attract more young people to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

She added: “IRIS brings real scientific research into the hands of students no matter their background or the context of the school. The experience inspires them to become the next generation of scientists.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39351833

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UK schoolboy corrects Nasa data error – BBC News

Media captionMiles Soloman tells Radio 4’s World At One how he discovered something the Nasa experts missed

A British teenager has contacted scientists at Nasa to point out an error in a set of their own data.

A-level student Miles Soloman found that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were recording false data.

The 17-year-old from Tapton school in Sheffield said it was “pretty cool” to email the space agency.

The correction was said to be “appreciated” by Nasa, which invited him to help analyse the problem.

“What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,” Miles told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

The research was part of the TimPix project from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS), which gives students across the UK the chance to work on data from the space station, looking for anomalies and patterns that might lead to further discoveries.

During UK astronaut Tim Peake’s stay on the station, detectors began recording the radiation levels on the ISS.

“I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were,” Miles explained.

Miles’s teacher and head of physics, James O’Neill, said: “We were all discussing the data but he just suddenly perked up in one of the sessions and went ‘why does it say there’s -1 energy here?'”

What Miles had noticed was that when nothing hit the detector, a negative reading was being recorded.

But you cannot get negative energy. So Miles and Mr O’Neill contacted Nasa.

“It’s pretty cool”, Miles said. “You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they’re looking at the graphs that I’ve made.”

It turned out that Miles had noticed something no-one else had – including the Nasa experts.

Nasa said it was aware of the error, but believed it was only happening once or twice a year.

Miles had found it was actually happening multiple times a day.

Image copyright NASA

Prof Larry Pinksy, from the University of Houston, told Radio 4: “My colleagues at Nasa thought they had cleaned that up.

“This underscores – I think – one of the values of the IRIS projects in all fields with big data. I’m sure there are interesting things the students can find that professionals don’t have time to do.”

The professor – who works with Nasa on radiation monitors – said the correction was “appreciated more so than it being embarrassing”.

What do Miles’ friends think of his discovery?

“They obviously think I’m a nerd,” the sixth-former said. “It’s really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details.”

He added: “I’m not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them.”

The director of IRIS, Prof Becky Parker, said this sort of “expansion of real science in the classroom” could attract more young people to STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).

She added: “IRIS brings real scientific research into the hands of students no matter their background or the context of the school. The experience inspires them to become the next generation of scientists.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39351833

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Women In STEM Around The World: Where We’ve Improved, And Where We Can Do Better

On March 8, every year, its International Womens Day a celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women all over the world. As we often like to point out at IFLScience, particularly around this time of year, we should absolutely be applauding the mind-blowing work of women working in science, too.

Without these people from the great pioneers and pathfinders, to the masters and doctoral students toiling through their tough degrees the world would be a far worse place than it is today. Todays a good chance to acknowledge this, but its also a good opportunity to review the progress society has made in getting more women into science.

Although there are more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than ever before, problems still pervade. From the recruiting bias against women to the fact that many with STEM degrees never end up in a STEM occupation, theres a great deal more we can all do to help climb this unfortunate mountain.

Disequilibrium

Lets just have a quick look at the statistics for the US, the most powerful nation on Earth and certainly the richest. Although there are plenty of congressional representatives there keen on getting more women into STEM, the Land of the Free currently has a massive problem in this regard.

According to US government data from 2012, there were 41,640,670 adults aged between 25 and 64 with at least one bachelors degree, and 14,807,725 of them (about 36 percent) had STEM degrees. Thats not a bad proportion overall for those wanting to study or get into science.

content-1488909197-women-in-stem-chart.j

The state of women with STEM degrees in the US, as of 2012. US Census

However, just 1 in 4 men with STEM degrees go into STEM careers today. This is unfortunate enough, but 1 in 7 women fall for the same fate another clear example of there not being enough paths to a career in science for both men and women, and a striking showcase of how underrepresented women are in science.

The UK fares just as badly. As of 2015, women make up no more than 18 percent of the STEM workforce, up by just 0.2 points since 2012. Just 9 percent of the British workforce are female engineering workers, and only 6 percent of qualified engineers are women.

Diversity of women in STEM is also a massive problem. In the US, back in 2013, 70 percent of STEM job holders were white. Minority women held fewer than 1 in 10 jobs as employed scientists or engineers.

Yes, there arent many jobs in academia going at the moment. Funding in academia is a notoriously troublesome issue, and its set to fall quite dramatically in the US under the new Trump administration.

But this problem of underrepresentation has existed long before this was a factor. If you have so many women graduating with STEM degrees, you should have far more women in STEM jobs. So where are they all?

Climbing Mountains

Women face an uphill struggle in many respects compared to men. Just as an example, the gender pay gap wont close completely until the year 2186at the current rate, and there are plenty of men (and women) in power trying very hard to convince the world that women arent strong or smart enough to deserve equal pay.

Women face plenty of prejudices when it comes to science too. The seemingly endemic problem of harassment and sexism of women in the workplace also includes STEM jobs. There is a well-documented bias against hiring women over men across a wide range of careers, and STEM is no exception.

One study revealed that both male and female employers were twice as likely to hire men over women regardless of background. Another computer science-related study found that, when coding anonymously for review, women were often seen as better than their male counterparts. However, when the sex of the coders weremade public, men were suddenly seen as being more competent.

Even in STEM careers, men cite themselves and their own work way more than women do, and analyses suggest that this is because its socially acceptable for men to be ambitious, but women seen doing the same are considered to be threatening in some way. Go figure.

Women being recruited into STEM degrees is on the up, but there’s a long, long way to go yet. Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Consequently, female first or co-authorship of academic papers has gone down. It increased from 27 to 37 percent from 1994 to 2014, but ever since, it has plateaued, and even begun to decline in many journals. The largest step-change occurs at the post-doc level, where plenty of men persevere but a huge number of women drop out.

We need to think about ways to dismantle the structural practices that prevent women from staying in science, Aimee Eckert, a doctoral student in cell biology at the University of Sussex, told IFLScience.

A friend of mine is a PhD student and a single mother. She’s brilliant and would make a great lab leader one day, Eckert said. But she will be penalized in academia for staying in one city or even in the UK because of the pressure to work in different environments to climb the career ladder.

Noting that there are too many qualified women getting neglected for talks, public seminars, and panel discussions, Eckert said that shed like to see more practices that don’t label women as the other in science, as opposed to men being the norm.

Even from a young age, girls are taught in many parts of the world that STEM jobs are boys jobs, not anyones. This is despite the fact that boys and girls perform equally well in STEM subjects in terms of standardized testing results, all other things considered equal.

This may be part of the reason why many of them decide not to study in a STEM field at all.

UK government data shows that back in 2013-2014, 52 percent of male undergraduates were on a STEM course at university, compared to just 40 percent of women. Just 20 percent of A-level (optional, advanced high school final exams) physics students are female, and this statistic has remained steady for the last quarter-century.

Computer science degrees, which are becoming increasingly important to the well-being of nations these days, are dominated by men. Just 18 percent of US computer science graduates are women.

In the US, a 2015 report shows that both men and women were slightly more likely to be taking STEM degrees than they were a decade ago. This sounds good, but theres a caveat: The share of STEM degrees has gone down for women over the last 10years as men are taking a bigger slice of the pie here. So as men rocket forwards in STEM, women are falling behind.

Remember that this is just a handful of wealthy nations were talking about here. In much of the developing world, women dont even have access to higher education. For the first time in history, just this year, there are as many girls as boys in primary education a great achievement, but one that highlights how far we have yet to come.

Lets All Look On The Bright Side

There are some positive signs of change afoot, however. It is true that there are more women in STEM than ever before, and they are dominating the fields of anthropology, archaeology, forensics, pharmacology, zoology, and psychology, to name but a few. In important, public ways, women in STEM occupations are being promoted a lot more than they used to.

One study revealed that the gender bias may be switching sides in some senses, with one study concluding that male and female employers are more likely to hire women for professorial roles in psychology, engineering, and biology than equally qualified male counterparts.

Obviously, people should be hired based on their expertise alone, but its demonstrably clear that theres an enormous problem here with women in STEM. Its a complicated issue, but one that has a rather straightforward solution: Treat men and women the same when it comes to science and everything else, come to think of it.

Lest we forget young girls love science just as much as young boys. Despite everything going against them, some of them manage to get into a STEM field. Its hardly the end of the fight at this point, though.

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to become a paleontologist, Franzi Sattler, a palaeontologist specializing in evolutionary biology and biodiversity from the Free University of Berlin, told IFLScience. I didn’t even know the word for it (dinosaur woman never failed to confuse my parents), but I was sure that this is what I was born to do.

Sattler has worked with Tristan, one of the worlds best-preserved T. rex specimens. Although she says that there are a lot of amazing women of all ages that are proud to support each other in the paleontological community, she still feels the pressure of being a woman in a still male-dominated field a lot sometimes.

I constantly have the feeling that people expect me to get married, start a family and drop everything that I have worked for, Sattler adds. Stable positions and guaranteed funding would be one way to make academia more desirable for young female researchers.

Be Bold For Change

The theme of 2017s International Womens Day is Be Bold For Change. Its ridiculous that asking for a level playing field for both men and women is considered bold, but here we are, in 2017, still wondering when thisll be achieved.

If youd like to see more done to help boost the support and recruitment of women in STEM, then there are several things you can do.

Sign up here to campaign for womens education as part of International Womens Day. Become a STEM Ambassador in the UK or the US, or donate to one of these absolutely amazing charities that help get girls and women into science. March alongside them, and stand up for science.

And, if you know a woman in STEM, take some time to let them know how awesome they are. By merely studying a STEM subject, they are going against societys tide.

In this sense, any women involved in STEM whether they are an elderly researcher or a little girl standing up for science are pioneers, and they deserve not just our applause, but action, to change things for the better.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/women-in-stem-around-the-world-where-weve-improved-and-where-we-can-do-better/

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Is This You When You See Your Child’s Math Grade?

Some parents don’t expect much from their child when it comes to math. But if you were to send your child to Mathnasium, you might just exhibit this kind of reaction when they show you their report card!

Note that the video is from the UK and they call it “maths” in that country!

 

 

Now I bet you can hardly wait to see your child’s math report, right?

Have a great day!

 

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