Bio-engineering workshops inspire young scientists

Contamination Clues, Plant Power, Brilliant Bacteria and Funky Fungi, were just some of the subjects on offer at Groby School, Leicestershire in July 2016. Academics from the CL4W Project (Cleaning Land for Wealth) delivered the innovative workshops to pupils in year 8, to demonstrate how bio-engineering can be applied to clean contaminated land and recover valuable resources. The students were able to see first-hand how scientists from leading Universities are working together to solve real-world problems.

STEM bio-engineering workshop - pupils investigate what soil is comprised ofThroughout the day, students were given the opportunity to explore what is in our soil, and how different scientific methods – including bio-engineering – can be applied to clean contaminants from the land. The hands-on activities included using Lego bricks to show how bacteria can be used to extract metals contaminating the environment, observing how plants like celery take up materials out of the earth, dissecting mushrooms to find out more about the role of fungi in cleaning biomass, and investigating the causes of land contamination in the UK.

The day culminated in the students giving presentations on their findings to the academics.

Teacher Jennifer Scott said: “Students and staff really enjoyed the day. It was perfectly pitched for the work we have been doing on bacteria and decomposition as well as phyto-mining and sustainability.”

Young scientist take part in STEM bio-engineering workshop The (CL4W) project involves collaborators from five leading UK Universities -Warwick, Edinburgh,  Birmingham, Newcastle and Cranfield and is funded the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The aim of the project to use plants as a way to clean land that has been contaminated by industrial or other processes, and to develop processes to recover high value products.

“Delivering the workshop was very enjoyable and as a result, I have a lot more respect for 14 year olds, in terms of their scientific understanding and their adoption of quite complex scientific concepts,” said Dr Michael Capeness from Edinburgh University.

Photos courtesy Nick Rawle Photography