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Stephen hawking, flying cars and apes at Heaton Manor

Thirty two students at Heaton Manor School, Newcastle upon Tyne were given the chance to answer their own burning questions about science and the results included finding out about flying cars, the Big Bang experiment and getting help from Britain’s most famous scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.

Four groups of students aged 12 and 13 years old picked a wide range of subjects which were of specific interest to them.

The first group decided to see if they could make a mini-Hadron Collider, to simulate the Big Bang experiment held in Switzerland in the summer. They had to design and acquire their own scientific kit which included plastic tubing from an old curtain rail and metal clamps.

They really enjoyed doing their experiment which fired a metal ball round the tube using a magnet, to replicate the way magnets were used in the Big Bang and they found it helped them understand the science behind the Swiss experiment.

Richard Faraday, Science Co-ordinator, Heaton Manor School said: “In a nutshell it is about encouraging students to become more independent and have a bit more ownership of their education and allowing it to be more personalised. We have found it increases engagement and makes the students more confident and encourages them to do things ordinarily they would not do.”

The school’s science enrichment activities are supported by Newcastle Science City and One NorthEast’s skills strategy which aims to encourage young people to study all science subjects and realise the wide variety of careers open to them.

Peter Arnold, chief executive, Newcastle Science City said: “The imagination and enthusiasm these students have put into their projects is first class.  They have really embraced the chance to be independent and what I am really pleased about, is that they all say their enjoyment of studying science has also been increased greatly.”

The second group of pupils decided to find out if anyone would ever be able to own a flying car.  They expected to learn it was impossible but thanks to a reply from Professor Stephen Hawking, they found three flying cars have been made.  Paul Moller, a designer had been trying to create them for over 40 years and has succeeded in making three flying cars, the most recent the Moller Skycar 400.  The only trouble is, apart from the multi-million price tag, they need around eight different licences to drive and fly them to cover the various restrictions in the air and the ground.

Four female students decided to investigate what does make-up have to do with science? 

Their research found out about animal testing, how arsenic was used to make women’s faces look white to deadly effect and they did an experiment with celebrity photos to see if people preferred stars like Angelina Jolie with or without make-up.

Another group explored evolution and how apes evolved into humans and how humans will evolve in the future.  They went to Newcastle University medical school and heard a lecture about Charles Darwin and genetics.  This group said their research told them how humans had changed due to various issues like weather, habitat and they had previously thought it might be just down to DNA.  They had all particularly enjoyed the University lecture by Dr Daniel Nettle which they thought might be too hard or boring but had been really great and interesting.

The culmination of all the students hard work was a presentation to their parents and other guests about their questions and the findings. 

Dated: 21/11/2008

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