Scheme brings cutting-edge science to the classroom

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An evolutionary battle between rampaging robots, an investigation into sustainable farming in Kenya, and a crime-fighting CSI mission are just some of the projects that have received grants worth £70,000 as part of a scheme that has been helping scientists and teachers to establish innovative science and engineering projects in schools since 2000.
The Partnership Grants Scheme, funded by The Royal Society and the Mercers’ Foundation, will provide 34 schools from across the UK with up to £3,000 each to bring science and engineering to life in the classroom and help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Each partnership offers young people the chance to meet and work with scientists and engineers from leading universities and industry and allows them to build and develop their scientific understanding in a way that is exciting, original and relevant to their lives.

Professor John Pethica FRS, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: “We were very impressed by the quality of applications and the ideas presented to us by schools up and down the country. We are looking forward to seeing the results of each project over the coming months.

“Science and engineering are exhilarating and dynamic subjects and we hope that by giving teachers the opportunity to take pupils out of the classroom – into science laboratories, geo-parks and coastal observatories – we can help show how exciting these subjects can be and inspire more young people to become the inventors, explorers, researchers and innovators of the future.”

Bury St Edmunds County Upper School in Suffolk is amongst the beneficiaries. Their project, Survival of the Fittest: Robots at War, will see pupils design and build robots using principles of evolution and natural selection. Students will employ their knowledge of scientific concepts and their engineering skills to create robots that are effective predators, which are able to defend themselves from attack. The evolutionary battle that follows will select the winner and ultimate predator.

Claire Broxton, Deputy Head of Science at Bury St Edmunds County Upper School, who is coordinating Robots at War, said: “Our project will bring to life what pupils learn about in the classroom and help them to understand key scientific and engineering principles in a way that is exciting and invigorating. By allowing our pupils to discover these subjects outside of the set confines of the curriculum, we can help them to realise how thrilling science can be and how vital engineering is to our lives.”

At Edmund Waller Primary School in London, a puzzling chain of events will unfold when pupils return to school to find that a ‘crime’ has been committed. In the week that follows, pupils will take on the role of crime scene investigators and undertake scientific analysis to identify the culprit. Meanwhile, at Halton Community Combined School in Buckinghamshire, pupils will explore the eco-friendly methods used by African farmers to protect their plants from pests, before developing a sustainable farming plot in the school’s garden.

Applications for the next round of funding are open until 5 March 2010. Teachers, scientists, engineers and industry partners interested in applying for a Partnership Grant should visit www

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