On the 11th of April, CSCT students Emma Sackville, Jemma Rowlandson, Paul McKeown, Shawn Rood and Helena Quilter ran a workshop on Sustainable Chemical Technologies at Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI). Here’s how we got on!

1Spending your Friday night Sellotaping balloons to straws probably isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but that’s what we found ourselves doing a few weeks ago.* It was the night before to our very first “Can Chemistry Be Green?” workshop at BRLSI, and we wanted it to be perfect. Balloon-sticks made and last-minute laminating done, we packed up the cars the following morning and headed to BRLSI for a day of green chemistry.

When Paul Thomas first asked us if we might be interested in running a workshop on Green Chemistry some months ago we absolutely jumped at the chance. We’ve been scheming for a while about doing some workshops and thought it would be a great chance to give it a go. I’ve helped out at BRLSI “Crazy Chemistry” workshops before and really enjoyed it. Just this time all eyes were on us…

Armed with the trusty ethanol rocket, a few boxes of packing peanuts and a whole lot of yeast, we rocked up in Queen’s Square on a beautiful Bath morning. We were fully booked (20 kids, aged 8-12) and had decided to keep the same format as other BRLSI workshops, where the kids move around the activities with a group leader.

After a quick safety intro (wear safety specks when we do the rocket!) we got going. In groups of 4 the kids and our wonderful volunteer group leaders  worked their way around our five interactive stalls to learn about some of our research including, batteries, hydrogen, biofuels and renewable feedstocks.

Paul explains some renewable materials
Paul shows off some renewable fuels and materials

There were a couple of new simple experiments we had decided to try out: “Biofuel Blast” and “Dunking Peanuts”. We had made some sheets to fill in to go with them to encourage the kids to make scientific observations, and that went down really well. At the end we also got an awesome chance to see what the kids had really learnt from us (evaluation!) as the groups did presentations about what they had enjoyed doing in the workshop.

Shawn talks about biodegradable plastics
Shawn talks about biodegradable plastics

All in all it was a brilliant day. The kids were great and really engaged (and we hoped they enjoyed it too!) We got some good feedback: there a few lessons to learn and some of the activities need a bit of tweaking but we can iron all that out before we do it ALL AGAIN in June!

*Don’t worry, I’m usually in the pub…

Helena is in her second year of the CSCT, working on new polymers made from terpenes with Matthew Jones, Davide Mattia and Matt Davidson. The second BRLSI workshop will be on the 13th of June and is already sold out!

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