More than 200 children took part in a series of fun games, quizzes and experiments as the University of Lincoln, UK, hosted its annual Summer Scientist Week.
Summer Scientist has become a fixture in the summer holiday calendars of families across the region, providing opportunities for youngsters aged between four and ten to learn about and contribute to real scientific research.
The annual event is run by the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, where specialists in developmental psychology devise simple and friendly exercises exploring how children of different ages perceive the world and learn to act in it. Summer Scientist 2015, which took place during the last week of July, was another record year for demand with 270 children registered for sessions across five days. Bookings were closed within three days of opening.
Organiser, Dr Fenja Ziegler, Principal Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, said: “Summer Scientist just keeps getting bigger in every way. Each year we have more and more students involved, who are getting valuable hands-on experience of working as part of a research team, interacting with children, and running experiments. “All the children who take part receive a goody bag t-shirt saying ‘I graduated’. It’s wonderful to see how proud they are. Many of the parents we speak to tell us it has given them an insight into the world of research, which is also important to us as academics.”
Dr Lesley Allinson introduced children to the ‘Immersion Box’ – a multi-sensory video game device which combines motion sensor technology with stereo sound and colourful graphics projected onto a big screen. The study assessed which games children preferred and why as part of an evaluation in collaboration with the Linkage Community Trust.
Dr Karen Pfeffer used eye-tracking software to study how children of different ages assess danger when assessing different scenarios for crossing the road.
In another study, children were asked assigned photos of different faces to categories based on which emotions were being expressed – with complete freedom to define the categories themselves. In another, young participants were asked to describe their future selves, as part of a study exploring how our impulse controls are affected by our concepts of the future.
Alongside the experiments, visitors could also enjoy family-friendly activities like face-painting and hook-a-duck, examine fascinating visual illusions and models of the brain, or create art of their own.
Around 25 students, ranging from first-year undergraduates to post-doctoral researchers, helped to run Summer Scientist 2015 alongside academic and professional services staff. BSc Psychology student Joe Tobias, who as ‘Chief Scientist’ had responsibility for co-ordinating the daily schedule of experiments, said: “I have definitely learned a lot, particularly about delegating to others and the importance of staying calm. It has been really rewarding because you can see how much the kids and the parents enjoy it.”