Newly launched youth engagement project Cool Science wowed thousands of young people at the Big Bang Fair by promoting the industry to the next generation, says Chris Vallis
Cool Science was officially launched at the 2015 Big Bang Young Scientists and Engineers Fair, the largest UK youth event, at NEC in Birmingham on 11 to 14 March. It attracted more than 75,000 young scientists and engineers, teachers, parents and STEM professionals.
At its heart, Big Bang is about careers, futures and highlighting the exciting possibilities that exist for young people with science, technology, engineering and maths backgrounds.
It’s about the contribution they, with the right motivation, can make to the UK economy and to society in general.
The Big Bang Fair, with its 170 stands, seemed the perfect place to showcase refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps as one of these exciting possibilities – and this is exactly what Cool Science did.
The 25 sq m Cool Science stand was a prime location to showcase the RACHP industry.
It gained an incredible amount of attention from visitors and interacted with more than 12,000 young people over four incredibly busy days.
Its eye-catching design and a fantastic range of fun interactive areas attracted a constant swarm of visitors and a led to a remarkable level of engagement with young people, interested to learn more about the science behind refrigeration.
A common theme was learning – it’s something most people don’t realise how much they rely on, let alone that it can be an interesting career.
The Cool Science team worked hard to make the exhibits relevant and educational as well as importantly being interactive and hands-on.
Engaging young people in a practical way is the best way to open their minds to careers that they may not have considered before, such as the cooling industry.
Cool Science also received significant press attention, media coverage and VIP visitors.
This included the Big Bang Fair official launch press shoot on the Cool Science stand, Associated Press, CBBC’s Newsround, TV’s Marty Jopson and a visit from the Science Minister Greg Clarke MP.
The areas of the stand included four members of the Mad Science team, with dry ice experiments to add some theatre to draw passing visitors.
The stand also featured two fantastic bespoke hand-built bicycle-powered refrigeration machines (aka The Refrigeration Cycle #BicyCool), designed and hand-built by Dr Ed Hammond of ECH Engineering.
The harder you pedal, the colder it gets – the temperature was displayed on large LED displays above the rider, encouraging some friendly competition!
This was a great demonstration of a vapour compression refrigeration system; its components, the energy input required and the cooling (and heating) effect.
Also proving very popular was the hand-made Cool Science sign, spelt out by frosty pipework. This was a very tactile exhibit for young people to see and feel cooling in action.
Also on the stand to explain more about it was the engineer who built it, Stuart Blackman of AB Group.
Another big draw was the 2 m video wall linked to a hi-res thermal imaging camera.
Showing off the cool parts of the stand, the camera was also mobile, being able to reveal what’s hot and what’s not.
This vivid thermographic colour proved a very engaging way for visitors to very clearly visualise the cooling and heating happening, from parts of the BicyCool to stand visitors and their hands fresh from gripping the frozen Cool Science sign.
In addition, there was an iPad wall running an interactive Cool Science quiz (also available on the Cool Science website).
Other parts of the stand had slideshows about Fantastic Fridges, a new website for young people from the IoR.
There were slides explaining the new apprenticeship standard for RACHP engineers, launched by the government the same week as the Big Bang Fair.
The World Skills UK RAC team were on hand to demonstrate the aspirational avenues available to be recognised worldwide for skills in this industry.
The Cool Science stand was staffed by more than 20 keen young engineering volunteers from RACHP companies, who engaged with the visitors, encouraging them to ask questions and telling them how to find out more about the Cool Science behind our industry and the career routes available. President of the Institute of Refrigeration, Graeme Maidment, spent the day on the Cool Science stand.
Mr Maidment said: “Coming along to help out with Cool Science at the Big Bang Fair, I was really impressed with what was achieved. Cool Science was a fantastic success and it gave us as an industry the opportunity show large numbers of young people that we are a brilliant career choice.
“This initiative was only possible because of the support that it received from members of our industry. I would like to thank everyone who volunteered and supported the show.
“Cool Science is so important. It highlights to young people the opportunity and challenges of a career in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.”
Further compliments came from science minister Greg Clarke MP, who called the event “fantastic”, while FETA chief executive Russell Beattie said: “I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand the contribution going on there to encourage the next generation with the very impressive Cool Science stand and the volunteers doing sterling work.
The Big Bang organisers told me that, especially considering it was a first-year appearance, it was a very impressive set-up, gaining particular accolades for the amount of interaction and participation it provided for the youngsters.”
It is estimated that there are approximately 70,000 people working in the UK cooling industry – it’s a huge sector.
We suffer from the symptoms as the whole engineering sector, where we have a skills gap, and I believe young people are who we need to be talking to plug that gap, encouraging them to continue studying STEM subjects and making them aware that they can become trained in this field, for example, by taking up an apprenticeship under the new apprenticeship standard from 2017 in refrigeration and air conditioning now approved by government.
We hope to keep the momentum with Cool Science to continue this work. Hopefully after seeing what we have managed to achieve in 2015, industry support will grow to keep Cool Science moving forward.
The huge success of the inaugural Cool Science event at the 2015 Big Bang Fair has provided a fantastic springboard for Cool Science to continue.
During and since the fair, Cool Science has been approached to be involved in national science fairs and festivals, engineering schools programmes, national events for STEM education trusts, education charities and even to be part of the education platform for SSC Bloodhound Education Programme.
With further support from the sector, Cool Science hopes to be back at the Big Bang Fair in 2016 and also participate in more events to continue to engage and inspire a younger and wider audience to join our important industry.
Chris Vallis is founder of Cool Science. Cool Science was made possible through support from AB Group, Institute of Refrigeration, British Refrigeration Association, ECH Engineering, EBM Papst, Mitsubishi Electric, Danfoss, Harp, GEA Searle, Space Engineering, Carel UK and Dean and Wood.
For more informaion, go to coolscience.org.uk or @CoolScienceUK on Twitter