Innovation and Creativity with Marble Runs at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium

Innovation and Creativity with Marble Runs at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium 6-3-15

To celebrate International Women’s Day, 100 female students aged between 12 and 14 years old from ten local schools and 30 female STEM Ambassadors from local companies visited the Science Centre for a day of creativity and to find out more about STEM careers.

The day began with a marble run design challenge, which included an opportunity for students to look at each others’ designs (for extra inspiration and collaboration). Towards the end of this session, groups of 20 students were asked to combine their marble runs so that 5 mega-designs were assembled by the end of the morning. STEM Ambassadors mentored the students as they designed and built their inventions, other ambassadors judged the students’ work. 

This was followed by a half hour speed-networking session (involving nearly everyone) so that students could talk informally with a range of scientists and engineers to find out what it is like to work in different STEM industries.

After lunch, prizes were awarded for the marble runs in five categories: longest time, most reliable run, most stylish design, most impressive mechanism and most effective communication within a team . All attendees then heard inspirational speeches from two STEM Ambassadors: Cary Marsh, an inventor and entrepreneur, and Sarah Kenny, MD at QinetiQ Maritime. Dr Jen Gupta then presented a Planetarium show highlighting achievements of women in astronomy.

At the beginning and end of the day, students were asked to raise their hands if they were thinking of pursuing a career in STEM (two hands if they were really sure). At the beginning around a quarter put their hands up, by the end of the day virtually all students raised at least one hand and most put two hands up! 

The atmosphere throughout the day was very positive. As one ambassador said, ‘I thoroughly enjoyed the event and it was great watching even the most reluctant students really come alive at the end to cheer as the marbles made their way down the runs.’

One teacher wrote, ‘Thank you very much again for the event on Friday. Our students were so enthusiastic and really enjoyed it. I was so pleased to see that some of them had gained an interest in STEM careers, having not previously considered it.’  Feedback from students included: "Thank you so much for this opportunity. We are so grateful for the chance to come" and "I really want to be an engineer! This showed me that women can also be engineers".