Young scientists meet Nobel Prize winner Sir Harry Kroto at fun workshop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScientists of tomorrow visited the University of Sheffield on Tuesday for an exciting workshop hosted by an internationally renowned Nobel Prize winner and University of Sheffield graduate.

Professor Sir Harry Kroto led an exciting hands on workshop for 50 year six schoolchildren from Monteney Primary School, Sheffield, and Holy Trinity School, Barnsley with his unique Buckyball Workshop. The pupils were able to engage with science and engineering students and share their passion for science.

Sir Harry was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for his discovery of a new form of carbon, buckminsterfullerene, or buckyballs.

Making a buckyball

Buckyballs are shaped like a traditional football and the carbon fullerene molecules are made of pentagons and hexagons. In 2010 the breakthrough was named by fellow academics as one of the 10 most important discoveries made by their peers at UK universities in the past 60 years.

During the innovative workshop, the budding scientists made their 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.

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.”

Chemistry creations

Later in the day pupils donned lab coats and rolled up their sleeves in a polymer slime and bath bombs workshop, hosted by the Department of Chemistry. The youngsters created brightly coloured polymer slime to demonstrate the idea of joining small molecules together to form long chain polymers and made bath bombs from acidic and alkaline materials.

Dr Sara Bacon from the Faculty of Science Widening Participation Team said: “The day was a unique opportunity for local primary school pupils to become scientists.  Working with our staff and students at the University will hopefully raise their aspirations and extend their interest in science.

“The pupils prepared fragrant bath bombs, investigated the properties of slime and generally had great fun at carrying out the experiments.

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

Find out more about outreach in the Faculty of Science

Find out more about Sir Harry’s visit