Sheffield Alumnus, Professor Sir Harry Kroto Helps the Scientists of the Next Generation

Harry Kroto pictured with 4 school pupils holding buckey ballsWe were delighted to see Professor Sir Harry Kroto return to the University on 10 June 2013 to host a workshop for two local schools. Sir Harry took 50 school children from Birley Community Primary School and Holy Trinity School in Barnsley on an intriguing journey of scientific adventure and exploration with his unique Buckyball Workshop.

Professor Sir Harold Kroto studied Chemistry at the University of Sheffield and in 1961 he obtained a first class BSc honours degree, followed in 1964 by a PhD and an honorary degree in 1995. Sir Harry was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of a new form of carbon: buckyballs. Buckyballs are shaped like a traditional football and the carbon fullerene molecules are made of pentagons and hexagons. In 2010 the breakthrough was named by fellow academics as one of the 10 most important discoveries made by their peers at UK universities in the past 60 years.

During the innovative workshop, the budding scientists of the future made their very own models of the buckyball using a specially provided kit. The aim of the activity was to give pupils the chance to learn about the buckyball's interesting properties and relate these to properties of other structures made from carbon, including graphite which is used in pencils, diamond necklaces and rings.

Sir Harry said: "The workshop introduces a few concepts such as algebra and very big numbers as well as molecules. The session uses hands-on model building in a way that children can understand easily and enjoy. This in turn lays the foundations of enthusiasm for mathematics and science. This is very important as their world will depend even more on complex technologies than it does now - filled as it is with computers, mobile phones and scores of other devices."

Later in the day pupils donned lab coats and rolled up their sleeves in a wacky Polymer Slime workshop, hosted by the University's Department of Chemistry. The youngsters created brightly coloured polymer slime to demonstrate the idea of joining small molecules together to form long chain polymers.

Dr Julie Hyde from the University's Department of Chemistry said: "During the day, the primary school pupils enjoyed the experience of making their own polymer slime in the Department of Chemistry laboratories, they prepared slime of all different colours, investigated the properties of slime and generally had great fun at carrying out the experiments.

Gaynor Hamilton, Outreach Projects Manager, said: "This is a unique opportunity for pupils from local primary schools to work with staff and students from the University of Sheffield and alongside the world renowned scientist Professor Sir Harold Kroto, who was recognised at the highest level for his achievements in chemistry and scientific discovery.

"The youngsters are at an important point of transition from primary to secondary school and we hope that this experience will ignite their interest in science and inspire them to raise their own aspirations to achieve at the highest level in their future studies."

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