After recently deciding to take part in the Gold Youth STEMM Award, we volunteered to assist on a stand for the Norwich Science Festival. The stand, which was called ‘Self-made Shape’, was run by the John Innes Centre which is a research institute based in Norwich. It illustrated a sample of the research that the centre does.
The session consisted of us communicating with the public the knowledge we had learned beforehand. We explained how the shape of plants was determined by conflicts in growth. We showed this using different types of demonstrations, for example there was a simple game to engage the visitors by letting them have a go at guessing the outcomes of different growth patterns. We particularly enjoyed speaking about carnivorous plants and how they survive in their challenging environment. We were able to observe this using different sorts of equipment such as endoscopes, microscopes and magnifying glasses.
The experiments were based upon the research carried out by the John Innes Centre. The institute looks at how minor differences in genetics can greatly alter the shape of the plant; this then allows them to look find out more about the effect of specific genes on these plants and other organisms. Looking at carnivorous plants also enables them to explore the way that plants have adapted to suit the conditions in which they live.
This experience gave us an opportunity to expand our knowledge on this topic and learn about what is happening locally through looking at not only our stand but the stands around us. The interaction with a public audience increased our confidence and developed our communication and presentation skills which could be essential in later life. This allowed us to consider possible jobs within this sector. Having operated with staff who already succeed within a science career, we were able to discuss what type of skills they perform, as well as being able to give us advice towards our potential career paths.
We feel we benefited a lot from this day and we would recommend anyone to volunteer for this kind of experience if the opportunity arose.