The University of Birmingham and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education attended the Big Bang Fair at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham on Wednesday 11 – Saturday 14 March 2015.

The Big Bang Fair is the UK’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people, aiming to show students a variety of exciting and rewarding opportunities for successful careers in STEM subjects. Over 75,000 people attended this year’s event, thousands of which visited the University of Birmingham stand.


The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, leaders in railway science and education, represented the University bringing railways to life with an exciting, interactive crash-test challenge.  Visiting children were encouraged to construct and crash-test their own model using a variety of fun materials, such as marshmallows, oasis floral foam, red noses and polystyrene. Before their design was set-off down an inclined ramp and crashed into a solid structure, students were asked what material would absorb the most energy, create the least impact and keep passengers safe? Crash results were transmitted onto a data recorder and re-watched in slow-motion on a video camera.


Staff and PhD students from the University were on hand to test out collisions, discuss crash-test analysis, and offered advice about future careers in STEM subjects.


Professor Felix Schmid, Director of Education at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education said:

The Big Bang Fair 2015 was a fantastic opportunity to make young students aware of the variety of career options available in STEM subjects. As an ambassador for the University, I wanted students to discover the exciting world of railways and the routes leading into careers in rail, such as civil, electrical and systems engineering. I attended the fair on Saturday 14 March and specifically remember a 3-year-old girl who made up her crash-test cup full of marshmallows, and watched on in awe as it crashed. She then watched the results on the screen and was so inquisitive and eager to learn. We also successfully recruited a few undergraduate and MSc students, who were impressed with the range of research we’re involved in.  Our input at this year’s Big Bang Fair was truly a success. I extend my greatest thanks to all of the staff and PhD students who were involved in designing the stand, preparing and running the four days of the event.