Nobel prize winner creates a big bang for young scientists

Harry main

An internationally renowned Nobel Prize winner and University of Sheffield graduate returned to the University yesterday (26 June 2012) to help school children discover a passion for science.

Professor Sir Harry Kroto presented his enthralling Buckyball workshop to 50 Year Six pupils from Birley Community Primary School and primary schools linked to St Michaels Catholic Church of England School in Barnsley - taking the youngsters on an intriguing voyage of scientific adventure and exploration.

Sir Harry was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of new form of carbon; buckyballs.

Shaped like a traditional football, these carbon fullerene molecules are made of pentagons and hexagons. In 2010 the breakthrough was named by fellow academics as one of the ten 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.Harry_1

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 workshop entitled Polymer Slime, 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: "This is a fantastic event for primary school pupils. They get the chance to make polymer slime in one of the Chemistry Department laboratories during one session. In the other session, Sir Harry Kroto guides them step by step to make their own buckyball which they get to take home with them. I hope that this event continues in the future and we are able to offer even more primary schools the opportunity to take part."

The workshops form part of a series of events with participating schools, which are organised by the Outreach and Access team.

Julie Askew the 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."

Additional information

The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.

The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859