Outreach Activities

The School of Chemical Engineering is dedicated to raising awareness of chemical engineering amongst young people by working closely with schools, colleges, teachers and career advisors.

Engineering is a practical application of the science that all students learn at school, and a vast industry. Chemical Engineering is a hugely profitable business involved with the scaling up of chemical reactions to an industrial scale. Whether that is the biochemical action of yeast in baking bread, developing healthcare technologies, or the production of green fuel, Chemical Engineering is changing the world.

We organise activities for students and teachers visiting the University with an interest in Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Engineering and also take activities out into schools and colleges. At a variety of levels, we aim to give insights into current research, explain degree and career options and generally enthuse the next generation to study Chemical Engineering!

Think you know what Chemical Engineering is? Think again. Listen to three of our academics discuss their ground breaking research to find out how you could help tackle global issues with a degree in one of our programmes.

Upcoming events for school groups

Girls, Change the World Day, Wednesday 18 January 2023

This event is for year 9 girls to introduce them to the ways Chemical Engineers are changing the world, and to inspire them to consider STEM subjects at GCSE, A-Level and beyond. The day will consist of Chemical Engineering workshops focusing on the different STEM subjects involved and career pathways available, and there will be an option to have a campus tour. To register your interest in attending this Chemical Engineering event, please email Lois at l.j.boyle@bham.ac.uk. 

Year 11 Careers Conference, Wednesday 14 December

This event for year 11 students will offer an insight into careers in STEM and how to get there. Attendees will get the chance to chat with some industry representatives and meet current students and University of Birmingham graduates.

Please email Lois at l.j.boyle@bham.ac.uk to register your interest in bringing your class along to the event. 

 

Ad-hoc bookings

We are always willing to take ad-hoc bookings for group visits to campus, or we can come into your school. Scroll down to see some of the topics we have on offer. Email Lois at l.j.boyle@bham.ac.uk for more information.

How do we formulate drugs?

Students have the opportunity to prepare tablets using a tablet press. Students will look at what conditions make the ideal tablet before we look at what the future may hold for tablet formulation and personalised medicine. 

 

A selection of different pharmaceutical tablets

Hydrogen powered bus

Renewable Energy

Address the challenges of using hydrogen to replace the current reliance on carbon-based fuels. Use the interactive energy dashboard to view consumption rates, explore ways waste energy can be used and stored, and use hydrogen as power!

Inside Scoop: The Chemical Engineering of Ice Cream

Did you know that ice cream involves chemical engineering? This talk for students age 16+ explores the chemical engineering in ice cream while giving attendees the chance to tackle some difficult equations.

Ice cream cone
Jon Wood doing an activity with a student

Outreach with Jon Wood

Jon Wood is an experienced science communicator who has put together a range of outreach sessions designed to cover topics at an appropriate level for the audience, from epic bath bombs to fizzy pop! Full details can be found in the drop-down section at the bottom of this page.

Food: Friend or Foe?

Take samples from your local surroundings and check their cleanliness, understand allergens, learn about food fraud and investigate food-borne outbreaks.

Petri dish filled with gel
EngBAM phoenix logo

EngBAM

EngBAM is an ever growing bank of resources for the use of teachers and students alike. Currently this website has been populated with Chemical Engineering resources including personal statement tips, experiments for at home or in the classroom, and lab tours. Take a look to get an insight into Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. 

 We have a range of other outreach activities and are always open to a conversation so we can tailor to your specific needs. Expand the sections below to view information on campus visits, school speakers, outreach with Jon Wood and cross-college activities. 

Outreach with Jon Wood (all ages)

Jon Wood is an experienced science communicator and has been an outreach fellow based in the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering since 2013. He has put together outreach sessions designed to cover topics at an appropriate level for the audience. All these sessions are delivered free of charge, made possible through the Michael F. Byrne Fund at the University of Birmingham. They can be tailored to your audience and timings given are a recommended guide. Please email Jon at J.B.Wood@bham.ac.uk to book one of these session or to find out more.

How to Make an Epic Bath Bomb (all primary years)

What makes bath bombs fizzy? How do we make them using things in the kitchen? What does each ingredient do? Join in with a guided workshop, making your own bath bombs. When we make products they have to be put together in the right order and because bath bombs work on a chemical reaction, they are no different. We have to add the ingredients in the right order to make them work. Scientific thinking!

Hands-on workshop, 50 minutes. Ideal for small group work. You will need the ingredients on the teacher prep sheet: powdered citric acid, bicarbonate of soda, cornflour, Epson salts, a little food colouring and some oil (sweet almond or olive).

From Kitchen to Space (years 9 & 10)

Using electrolysis to generate hydrogen gas isn't just used in the International Space Station, it’s possible in your kitchen. This guided, ‘design and build’ workshop emphasises engineering habits of mind, as groups build simple electrolysis cells. Topics covered: water as a polar molecule, anions, cations, secondary reactions, hydrogen fuel cells. A teacher sheet is provided for a full walkthrough in preparation of this workshop.

Hands-on workshop, 50-60 minutes. A design and build session for classes divided into small groups, each requiring: 9v PP3 battery, disposable plastic cup, two drawing pins, salt, water, bicarb, access to a hot glue gun or sticky tape/Blu-Tack. Teacher supervision recommended.

The Science of Fizzy Pop (years 10 & 11)

Our favourite drinks are formulated to give them the flavours and fizz we love. We look at how drinks are made, and how carbonisation changes acidity. Using Henry’s law, a little maths, and some knowledge of the periodic table, we calculate how many grams of CO₂ go into a bottle of pop. Students should be comfortable rearranging simple equations, and have knowledge of calculating the molecular mass of something using the periodic table.

Dry workshop. 30 minutes. An interactive chat about fizzy drinks, then a guided exercise where students will perform simple calculations using Henry’s law. We apply the maths to a practical chemistry investigation.

The Rural Water Problem (years 12 & 13)

You’ve been asked to design a water supply system for a village in a remote mountain area. Following an initial survey, students will explore the maths of providing the pipeline in the most efficient and economical way. We’ll use the Hazen-Williams formula to calculate pressure loss to choose the right length of the right size pipes.

Dry workshop, 60 minutes. A lesson in linear algebra. Students should be comfortable manipulating mathematical expressions and using matrices to solve simultaneous equations.

Chem Eng, who cares? (all ages)

What role does Chemical Engineering play in your life? What do we make, and who would enjoy it? An interactive session where we chat about toothpaste, breakfast cereal, tablets, water, and brewing the perfect cup of tea. How has chemical engineering journeyed from its fossil fuel origins to contribute to pursuing renewable energy?

Careers talk, suitable for all ages. Takes about 20 minutes and is quite conversational. It’s nice for students to be on camera, but not essential.

 

Campus visits (years 7-13)

We are happy to discuss a one-off visit to our university for school groups. Visits must be arranged in advance, so that a suitable programme can be arranged subject to appropriate staff and venues being available. A visit might involve:

  • a talk about the University of Birmingham
  • an 'Introduction to Chemical Engineering' talk or interactive workshop - designed to encourage and stimulate a student's interest in Chemistry, Maths or Physics and applying these subject areas to industry. The topic of the talk or workshop can be discussed ahead of the visit, with some suggested topics being: Sustainable Energy, Healthcare Technologies, or Food
  • a tour of the campus from current students
  • an opportunity to see the labs
  • a question-and-answer session

To find out more about these opportunities please email Lois Boyle, Michael F Byrne Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer for the School of Chemical Engineering.

School speakers (years 7-13)

We have a number of engaging academics and alumni available to deliver a talk in your school about Chemical Engineering for students with an interest in STEM subjects. Talks can be delivered in person or via Zoom. 

Suggested topics may cover:

  • How Chemical Engineers can save the world
  • Green energy
  • Healthcare technologies
  • Chemical Engineering in the food you eat
  • Careers in Chemical Engineering

To find out more and discuss your requirements please email please email Lois Boyle, Michael F Byrne Outreach and Schools Liaison Officer for the School of Chemical Engineering.

Engineering and Physical Sciences events (years 9 & 10)

Staff and students from the School of Chemical Engineering take part in outreach events which cover a range of subjects, organised by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. These include our Girls in STEM Day for year 9 girls, and our Discovery Day for year 10 students. For more information on outreach and schools activities which happen across the College, please visit the Engineering & Physical Sciences Outreach page. 

For more information or to discuss your requirements, please email Lois at l.j.boyle@bham.ac.uk. You may also be interested in signing up for our mailing list to hear more about upcoming events and following us on Twitter and Instagram at @ChemEngBham.