2 space talks for schools this week

It’s been a busy outreach week for me. I started out on Monday travelling up to Darlington to visit the Polam Hall School where I’d been invited to speak to their pupils (there’s a press release here about my visit). This visit was organised by PHOSA which is the alumni association at the school. I hadn’t been to Darlington since I was last stuck there in the train station for a few hours many years ago after my train broke down when I was on my way back to Durham where I was studying for my undergraduate degree. This visit was, thankfully, much more pleasant. On Tuesday morning I was lucky enough to take 2 different classes (one geography and one science) where I spoke to the pupils about the meteorites that I’d carted with me (even the heavy ones) all the way from Milton Keynes. There were lots and lots of questions, some of them quite funny such as ‘Where does your poo go in space?’ when I told them that if they wanted to travel to Mars that it might take a few years (not that I wanted to put them off being astronauts of course)! I then did a talk in the afternoon in the school’s theatre entitled: ‘Ashes to Dust: A tour through space and time with Dr Natalie Starkey’. It was lots of fun and involved around 350 pupils from all the local Darlington schools. The meteorites were, once again, very popular at the end! Even the teachers wanted to hold a piece of Mars…who could resist.

Signing autographsThen today I’ve travelled up to Peterborough to speak to 100 7-11 year olds at Orton Wistow Primary School. They were a delightful group and had all done their homework so seemed to know a lot about space already. There was even one boy who managed to describe exactly what the Rosetta mission is going to do, I was very impressed indeed. This event was part of the Peterborough Children’s University charity which seems like a great idea to me. The kids follow a number of modules and then get to graduate with a ceremony at the end so they start to understand what university means and what it might do for them. Hopefully I encouraged a few of them today to think about science as a career. The teacher at the school had got the children excited about my talk (by showing them clips of me on TV) which resulted in them thinking I was some kind of celebrity and so they wanted my autograph at the end (see pic above)…and even a hug. Well, that was a nice way to end a talk, maybe scientific conferences should introduce hugs?? I also got some beautiful thank you flowers so it was a lovely lovely day overall.

Thank you flowers

Rosetta ESA swag arrived!

ESA boxThere was a rather exciting delivery for me this week as you’ll see from the above picture. This was a pallet delivered from ESA (European Space Agency) for the Catch A Comet Royal Society Summer Exhibition stand. We got lots of cool stuff which we’ll be giving away to our visitors (but you might have to answer a few questions on comets to get a freebie)! The sports water bottles (see below) are awesome, I’ve already started using mine, but we also have pin badges, stickers and posters, all with Rosetta logos and cool pictures.

Rosetta water bottleI also spent a few evenings making the Molymod molecules for the comet sculpture we’ll install at the exhibit. Here’s a few of the ones I made so far…can you name them? Clue: the first one is the hardest natural substance. Second clue: They’re all found in comets.

RS SSE diamondComet molecules Molymod