By Patricia Bernal, Imperial College London
On a cold winter day in London on January 2017, Native Scientist celebrated a warm science outreach event for children in partnership with the Embassy of Ecuador in London. The meeting took place in the Ecuadorian Consulate located near King’s Cross St. Pancras in the very heart of the city of London. The event brought together 25 Ecuadorian pupils and 5 Spanish-speaking scientists from different disciplines.
Scientists used their mother tongue to explain to the children in an engaging and fun way the work they are currently performing in the United Kingdom. The workshop allowed the scientists to improve their communication skills and increase the impact of their research in a welcome environment.
At the same time, the children had the opportunity to practice their mother tongue by learning new vocabulary, absorbing new concepts and more importantly enjoying the process. Not only did they practice their parent language, but they were exposed to excellent role models. Female and male scientists, mainly from Ecuador, with a common language, all studying or working in a foreign country with a reputation for high-quality science.
During the session, the children were delighted to uncover many new facts from the different topics that were presented to them. For example, Dr Martinez-Bravo from King’s College London, showed them how to distinguish acid and basic elements using magic strips (pH test strips) and they were excited to see that acid elements such as lemon turn the strip yellow.
The children explored the components of an aeroplane and learnt to improve turbines to fly even faster. Fabian Hualca, an aeronautical engineer in his final year of his PhD at the University of Bath, explained to them that in the future they could fly to Ecuador in 5 hours instead of 12 hours that the flight last nowadays!
The pupils found out about the intricacies of the internet and the way humans interact with the Web with Rafael Melgarejo, a PhD student at the University of Southampton. Sara Abad, a PhD student of King’s College London, explained to the children how scientists get inspiration from nature to design amazing robots. Sara studies the hoof of the Ecuadorian mountain goat, one of the best climbers in nature, to improve the mobility of robots in mountainous terrains.
Lastly, the pupils learnt about the human biological clock and the way the brain interacts with the environment. That was one of the experiences they enjoyed the most where they had to go to sleep and wake up following an alarm clock and the instructions dictated by Camila Montesinos, a third year student of Applied Medical Science at UCL.
As the coordinator of the session, I had the chance to contemplate the great work that the volunteers did that day with the pupils; you can see it yourself in this Facebook post. All the volunteers were delighted with the experience and are looking forward to the next workshop. They described the experience as a nice adventure that was very rewarding and lots of fun. Importantly, they all agree they would totally recommend it to anyone interested in science outreach. So, if you are reading this post and feel you could enjoy Native Scientist spirit, please join the team here to volunteer with us. Native Scientist organises workshops in England, Scotland, France and Germany for immigrant children that are Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, Greek, German, French or Polish native speakers.
Native Scientist was a recipient of a 2016 Biochemical Society Diversity in Science Grant.
Dr Patricia Bernal is the Native Scientist Project Manager for Spanish in London (firstname.lastname@example.org). Patricia is a Marie Curie Fellow at Imperial College London where she studies bacterial secretion systems.