Kroto Research Inspiration

Championing the creative communication of research


Off with a bang!

Pupils from Swinton Community School and Firth Park Academy paid a memorable visit to the University of Sheffield when they joined staff for an explosive look at the science and engineering behind bonfire night. The Year 8 and 9 pupils attended three hands-on workshops, led by volunteers from the Kroto Research Institute which is part of the University’s Faculty of Engineering.

The activities gave an illuminating insight into what makes a successful, and safe, bonfire night whilst exploring disciplines such as chemistry, forensic science, physics and maths. The school students were also able to visit the Student Union and explore the campus to get a flavour of life at the University.

Details of the workshops are below:

Flames and Fireworks

Ever wondered how fireworks can produce all those fantastic colours? Can something catch fire without a flame? Come and find out in our flames and fireworks workshop!

The Gunpowder Plot – who did it?

Have you ever wondered how DNA from a crime scene is used to find out who took part in a crime? In this workshop you’ll take on the role of a forensic scientist to find out how DNA profiling could have helped identify the suspects of the 1605 gunpowder plot.


How are engineers able to create such intricate firework displays? It's all in the take-off! Students will learn about the physics behind fireworks by designing and building their own air-powered rockets. Students will then test their knowledge by competing to try and hit a distant target!

A day in the life of an engineer

Year 8 and 9 pupils from Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield and King James’s School, Knaresborough were able to sample a hands-on approach to engineering thanks to KRI’s Dr Chelsea Sabo.

The workshop, ‘Action in Engineering’, gave pupils the opportunity to learn about what it means to be an engineer, including how it can be used to improve society through better design, manufacturing and logistics.

Here’s an overview of how the day demonstrated the problem solving skills of an engineer:

Team building activities

No great feat has been accomplished by a single person – engineers need to work together. First, students practiced their teamwork skills by completing tasks in groups.

Constructing spaghetti bridges

The first challenge presented to students was to build a bridge out of only spaghetti and masking tape and see which held the most weight. Students learned about bridge designs and the basics of beam theory and forces.

Building and testing trebuchets

The second challenge was for students to build trebuchets out of various office supplies. Students had to apply the concepts of simple machines to construct the trebuchet that could shoot the farthest distance.

The day was supported by the University’s Outreach Team and the Excellence Hub, a regional collaboration between the Universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York which provides a programme to develop exciting and purposeful opportunities for high achieving young people.

Giving sight to science

The outreach work carried out by Ílida Ortega Ascencio has meant that she has won this years’ Kroto Family Science Education Prize. Last year Ilida took part in the Sheffield Children’s Festival and presented her work on corneal blindness by setting up an interactive stand for children.

The stand also targeted parents by using a poster presentation explaining the common causes of blindness, highlighting corneal blindness and discussing devices being made in the lab to combat these problems.

The interactive side of the stand allowed the public to touch some of the membranes developed in the lab and included a black bag where children were asked to identify different items by touch rather than sight. Ílida has also been involved in several other events such as the ‘Festival of the Mind’ and ‘Inspiring and Supporting Enterprising Researchers’.

She has recently applied to take part in ‘I’m a scientist get me out of here’ where scientists interact with high school students who can ask the panel science-related questions.

Science brainwaves

Steph Kerr is part of the Science Brainwaves committee where she is head of publicity. She has helped to organise a number of events and workshops which include helping Beaver Scouts gain their Experiment badge, encouraging girls to apply to study engineering via a stall at an engineering open day and running sports science demonstrations during the Olympics.

Steph also managed the organisation of the Christmas lecture which included a science pantomime about the history of medicine and a lecture about the filming of Channel 4 documentary ‘Inside Nature’s Giants’. The Christmas lecture was highly successful and was attended by over 400 people across a variety of ages. Steph will continue her work with Science Brainwaves this year and is currently planning a Science of Whiskey evening.

Bringing bacteria to life

Ali Al-Anizi, Lygia Eleftheriou, Jospeh Hutton, Riccardo Innocenti Malini, David Sparks and Maria Romero-Gonzalez have all taken part in school talks around Sheffield which focused on bacteria and how bacteria interacts with different surfaces.

Five workstations were set up for the school talks which included the topics ‘our mouth’, ‘our hands’, ‘the kitchen’, ‘the hospital’ and ‘the environment’.

Each workstation included hands-on activities to help schoolchildren understand the basics of bacteria and their relationship to people and the environment. The group have also presented at the ‘Women in Engineering’ conference and are planning to continue their work during next years’ Science Week.

If you are interested in recording a presentation or video about your research that could be used as a teaching resource then please visit our Global Educational Research site or find out more by clicking here.