Category Archives: STFCWinner

What Lisa Simmons did with her prize money…

Lisa was voted the winner of the Extreme Temperature Zone in November 2014. If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I used the money to fund a STEM club for the student society in The School of Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan University. We set up an activity called Electricks in association with STEMNet that delivered basic electronics skills to young people in years seven to nine. We also showed school teachers how to develop the activities to take back and integrate into their teaching. The project reached around 120 people.

Since this project, I now run Summer Schools in associated with the Engineering Development Trust.

Posted on July 4, 2018 modem in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Lisa Simmons did with her prize money…

What Emma Osborne did with her prize money…

Emma was voted the winner of the Gravity Zone in March 2016. Here she writes about using her £500 prize money to set up a YouTube Channel, ‘The Extraordinary Universe’.

If you’d like to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

I used the prize money to buy equipment to set up my YouTube channel, which contains lots of videos about astrophysics and how the extraordinary universe works,  for example ‘What happens if you fall into a black hole? or ‘What is a pulsar?’.

Using this channel I have so far been able to reach 80,000 people. I spent £250 on a video camera, £50 on a microphone, £50 on lighting and £150 towards an iPad for editing and animation. I have also been using Instagram to support my YouTube channel, and that has been very popular (over 30k followers) which can be found here.

Using the equipment I bought with the prize money, I have been able to consistently produce content, as now the only costs I have are on my time. Since setting up my YouTube channel, I have had many fantastic opportunities come my way and I have even won an award for my science communication.

It all started with this competition, and for that I am eternally grateful! I have to say that everything I have achieved since taking part in this competition wouldn’t have been possible without the seed funding provided from the prize money. I have given many talks, demonstrated at science festival/events, use social media as an educational channel, interviewed on local and national television. More on what I’m up to next can be found on my website.

Posted on March 21, 2018 modem in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Emma Osborne did with her prize money…

What Stuart Archer did with his prize money…

Stuart was the winner of the New Materials Zone in 2013 and spent his £500 prize money running workshops for around 50 students at local schools.

“I ran a workshop for local schools in Sheffield where the students made “dye-sensitised” solar cells from fruit juice. Blackberries, cherries and raspberries all have a useful dye in them that can be used to make the solar cells, so we compared and contrasted the three in teams. Prizes were available for the best team and best individual solar cell. Approximately £350 of the money went towards equipment and solar cell components. £100 went towards consumables for the workshops and the rest went on travel costs.

It all went very well, the students and the teachers were really happy with it and we will likely add it to our annual programme of outreach at Sheffield. We continue to deliver the workshops and have more planned for this year.”

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here:

Posted on December 6, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Stuart Archer did with his prize money…

What Sarah Tesh did with her prize money…

Sarah won the Extreme Clean Zone, funded by STFC, in November 2013. Sarah donated her prize money to Build Africa, who used it to support their Water and Food Access project which has ensured a clean and safe water supply for 28 schools across Uganda.

In 2013 a borehole was installed at Kimogoro Primary School, and Sarah’s donation went towards teaching a Water Committee how to maintain it. The committee have been supplied with maintenance kits and training, including simple book keeping, sanitation and hygiene, as well as the relevant skills to undertake any necessary repairs in the future. Abdriku, a member of the committee, said ‘The training was very helpful since we developed the rules and regulation on the use of our
school borehole. ‘ Read more about the skills training project at the school here.

School staff using the well

Stephen, one of the students at Kimogoro, spoke about the effect having the borehole has had on his school day; “I am happy since we have clean water at school for drinking and washing our hands. The water also ensures that we get food at school and this makes us stay at school and spend more time with our teachers. We also take porridge during break time and we enjoy it. The community always gives us room when we want to use the water.”

If you’d like the chance to win funding for your science outreach work, apply for I’m a Scientist at

Posted on August 23, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Sarah Tesh did with her prize money…

What Clara Nellist did with her prize money….

Clara won the Nuclear Zone in March 2014. Here she tells us how she used £500 prize money on further public engagement with science.

If you’d like the chance to win £500 for more science outreach, apply for I’m a Scientist at

After taking part in the I’m a Scientist event, as I wanted to use it to bring particle physics to schools that aren’t currently able to work with scientists from universities. However, the original plan of doing this through particle physics masterclasses wasn’t able to happen and so, after a fortunate discussion with colleagues at CERN, I was able to stick to the original idea, but support a project designing and building cosmic ray detectors that can be built by schools cheaply!

The prize money has been put towards the CosmiPi project which aims to build the world’s largest open source cosmic ray detector. The original team for the project met thanks to the first hackathon by The Port at CERN in 2014, where people with a mutual interest in building a cosmic ray detector were able to come together and shared skills and enthusiasm. I joined as part of a discussion on how to make the data from the detectors public so that this huge data set could be analysed by anyone around the world.

Specifically, the prize money was put towards developing the next prototype and on materials to spread the message to schools that this is something that they might be interested in. The reach of the project could be huge. Since both the hardware and software are open source, and the aim is to use materials which are as affordable as possible, such as the Raspberry Pi, it means schools around the world can take the design, start building their own and begin measuring cosmic rays coming from the sky  and beyond!

It has been recently announced that runners up in the CERN Beam Lines for Schools Competition will receive a CosmiPi to perform physics experiments in their schools.

I think the biggest change for me since I took part in IAS was that this was first time I had done serious science communication online. I had just moved to France (and my French wasn’t very strong at that time), so I couldn’t do my usual outreach method of visiting schools at working at a science festival. After the success of IAS, and seeing how much you can do online, I was motivated to find more ways I could use the internet to communicate the research at CERN. Now I even manage all of the social media for my experiment, ATLAS.

The next step for me would be to expand my outreach work online and also to get more involved with summer schools, especially in place that don’t have a strong connection already to particle physics and hopefully inspire the next generation of physicists.

From taking part in I’m a Scientist, I learnt that it was possible to do good science communication online and I was able to develop my ability to describe complicated scientific concepts in a clear and understandable way.

Posted on March 29, 2017 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Clara Nellist did with her prize money….

What Scott Lawrie did with his prize money…

Scott was voted the winner of Iridium Zone in March 2016. He got straight to work using his £500 prize money and here he reports back on what he’s been able to do this past year.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 1

The test piece I made as proof of concept. It worked perfectly, as can be seen by the bright spark in the middle.

When I entered the ‘I’m A Scientist’ competition and had to think of something to spend the prize money on, I had recently been doing lots of demos with a Van de Graaff generator. I was on the lookout for something else to demonstrate high voltage when I stumbled upon a sparking xylophone – also known as a sparkophone! In my job I design and develop particle accelerator equipment which uses high voltage and resonant cavities; exactly how the sparkophone works. It’s loud, flashy, exciting and demonstrates several different physics concepts: perfect to show off to the public.

When I won the competition and before the prize money came in, I was so excited that I got to work immediately building a prototype using some parts already available in my lab. Happy with the concept, I bought the components for the real thing and spent a few days constructing the sparkophone. It consists of plastic tubes cut to length to produce ten musical notes starting from A-minor. Applying 30,000 volts across two bolts inside each tube, they spark randomly, playing a loud and somewhat tuneless song.


Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 2

Me proudly testing the completed sparkophone in my lab. Somewhat dangerous with exposed high voltages, I had to box it all in before taking it on the road!

As thanks to the students who voted for me to win, I visited a few schools who took part in ‘I’m A Scientist’. I spent some more money from our PR group to box the sparkophone in to make it safe even without somebody guarding it. Then I travelled round the country to a few schools – waking up at 5am in one case to make it on time!

There, I gave hour long talks, interspersed with various practical demonstrations. As well as the sparkophone, I showed off a Van de Graaff generator, a salad-bowl particle accelerator and how standing waves work in acoustics. Then I tied it all together to explain basically how a real particle accelerator works. There were lots of opportunities for the students to join in the demos and answer questions. My visits were (and continue to be) a very fulfilling part of my outreach programme. There was definitely a buzz around the schools as everyone heard about my visit, so I think the students got a lot out of it, too.

Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 3

Me and the fabulous students of Hawley Place school.


Scott Lawrie Sparkophone public engagement outreach 4

Demonstrating standing waves with a skipping rope at St. John Payne school.

Every time I use the sparkophone, the first question people ask is whether it can play a real tune. In principle yes it can, but the electronic circuitry needed to do so is somewhat more complicated and beyond the time I had available to implement. Maybe if I’ve inspired someone enough, they can work with me to extend it as a Summer project one day…? Thanks so much to the ‘I’m A Scientist’ team for the funding; it’s been so much fun building the kit and interacting with all kinds of students. I’m looking forward to more visits soon.

Posted on February 1, 2017 modantony in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Scott Lawrie did with his prize money…

What Ollie Brown did with his prize money…

 won the Particle Physics Zone in March 2015. Here he fills us in on how he’s been using his £500 prize money.

If you’re a scientist who’d like the funding to develop your own outreach activities apply for I’m a Scientist at

I was lucky enough to be selected for the I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out of Here Particle Physics zone, and emerge victorious! It was a really great two weeks, and I had a lot of fun engaging with both the students, and my fellow scientists Yelong, Vicky, Michele, and Jackie who provided stiff competition! So what have I been up to since then..?

The LEGO Watt Balance

I decided to use the prize money to buy the components for a LEGO Watt Balance. It took a little while (mostly because I had to learn how to order stuff to the University) but all the parts are now here, and we hope to enter the final build/testing phase very soon!

Ollie Brown outreach project 1

Look how much joy this is already bringing to immature PhD students!

Alright you say, but what is it, and what are you going to do with it? Well, dear reader, a Watt balance is a device that pits gravity and electromagnetism against each other. It allows the user to either very precisely weigh an object (if they know the value of Planck’s constant), or to determine Planck’s constant (if they know the weight of an object).

Planck’s constant is a very special number that determines the scale at which quantum physics (the kind I research) happens, so it’s super exciting that such a (relatively) simple device can be used to calculate it! Once we’ve finished putting it together, the plan is to take it round science festivals and schools here in Scotland, get people to calculate Planck’s constant for themselves, and use it as a fun way to introduce quantum physics!

Only Scotland? 🙁

Well I’m originally from near London, so I’m down that way occasionally, but it’s a bit tricky to get the watt balance on the train… That said, if it’s the sort of thing that interests you could always think about building your own! In particular if you’re a science teacher at a school, this is exactly the sort of project you can apply to the Institute of Physics to fund ( and the design, parts list, and software to run the experiment are freely available here: …jus’ sayin’.

"You can build me too!"

“You can build me too!”

I’d like to say a great big thank you once again to the IAS team, as well as all the students who voted for me last March. I had a lot of fun, and I’ve even learnt some new things about particle physics and building experiments myself!

Posted on November 23, 2016 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Ollie Brown did with his prize money…

What Stefan Lines did with his prize money…

Stefan was voted the winner of Big Data Zone in 2014. Here he reports back on how he got on using the £500 prize money…

My plan with the money was to build a weather station powered by a small computer called a Raspberry Pi. I was excited to buy the components I needed – an AirPi printed circuit board, sensors, powers supplies, storage, monitor, keyboards… and of course the Pi!

It turned out buying the parts was the simplest stage, however, as I was soon faced with the unexpected task of having to solder all the sensors the circuit board. Depressingly, I managed to melt most of the circuit board in what was my first (and last I can assure you) experience with a soldering iron.



No jokes about ‘soldering on’, please. Breadboards for life!

I spent hours trying to connect up the device but no, it was gone. Hands on Science 1 Me 0.

Slightly deterred but ever optimistic I managed to salvage the sensors. But how to connect them up? A few solderless breadboards, wires, resistors, and many, many hours later I had devised a circuit, connected it up and life was recorded on the Pi! Data was being fed into the Pi and I had to then decode it using some modules programmed in Python. Soon I was able to retrieve the temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure of my bedroom.

I stuck the Pi and circuits down onto a wooden slab and travelled to my hometown of Plymouth to hand it over to the lovely people at my old secondary school. I was able to show them how the Python code crunches the data and outputs to a file, and then how to plot this data using scientific software. I mentioned the plethora of topics that could extend this project such as broadcasting their meteorological data to Twitter, for example. After all, who in the world wouldn’t want to know how damp it is in science lab B?


The students taking climate measurements of their own science lab.

While I was there I was also able to give a lengthy talk on my work in Exoplanet science, with a focus on what universities were suitable for studying different areas of this fascinating topics. I was able to relate my own work back to the simple data processing done on the Pi too, completing the circle of science! The students were looking forward to receiving new sensors I am sending them which will allow for them to monitor air quality and the temperature of chemical reactions. They will be able to communicate their own knowledge on to younger students in the school, hopefully encouraging interest in basic programming.

Many thanks to the Gallomanor and the I’m a Scientist team who run this exciting scheme for students and scientists alike, I wish I could come back and do it all over again 🙂

If you’re a scientist with an idea for an outreach project, sign up for the next I’m a Scientist event at and you could win £500 to make it a reality. Just maybe watch out for the soldering.

Posted on August 31, 2016 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Stefan Lines did with his prize money…

What Nick Wright did with his prize money…

Nick won the Extreme Size Zone in March 2014. Here he tells us how he put his £500 to use in the name of  engaging school students with astronomy…

I wanted to find a way to put the prize money towards a project that provided school children with exposure to real scientific research in a fun and simple way. My original plan was to produce a series of posters that shared cutting-edge scientific ideas in astronomy with school children through simple but attractive imagery. In the end I did spend a portion of the money on this project, but I also wanted to do something more proactive that would have a longer-term impact on school children across the country.

Nick wright's poster

Nick created these posters with the most…ers. You can get them yourself from the links at the bottom of this blog.

The British Science Association runs an excellent scheme called CREST Awards, whereby 11-19 year old school students complete projects that help build their scientific skills. The work for these is typically done in school STEM clubs, which also provide an extra opportunity for students to engage with science.

Suitable scientific projects for CREST Awards are not easy to prepare, particularly astronomy projects and this was evidenced from the lack of such projects currently available for schools from the CREST website. I wanted to remedy this by designing a number of astronomy-related CREST projects that used real astronomy data, yet were easy for school teachers to use, and were also really fun for students.

Most astronomy data is actually free and readily available for anyone to use, including high-quality images that can be used to answer exciting and cutting-edge questions in science. It is my hope that by helping school children access this data and providing projects that allow them to study and use this data in a real scientific experiment we could enthuse the children to pursue scientific subjects in school and possibly take up a career in science. So I started designing a few projects that used real and freely available data.

As it happened at that time a local school in Hertfordshire made a request to our local STEMNET coordinator for someone to help them set up a new STEM club. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity not only to test my CREST projects, but also to work with a school going through the process of setting up a STEM club, and in doing so, see the process through the teacher’s eyes.

Nick Wright

Nick weighs up his interplanetary options: “Neptune goes with my shirt, but Jupiter really brings out my eyes”

Working with the school and the teachers I was able to refine and fashion the projects, making them easy to use for the teachers, while also being new and exciting for the school children. I used the prize money to visit the school regularly, give talks to the students, and advise the teachers on how to run the CREST Award projects I had designed. By being directly involved in the STEM club itself I was also able to see how the students reacted to the projects, what worked for them and what they enjoyed the most. It was a really enjoyable experience and taught me a lot about how teachers interact with students and what scientists can most helpfully provide teachers with to help them.

These projects will soon be available through the CREST website, with information for how they can be run, where the data can be obtained, and how the results can be interpreted by students and teachers. This is all thanks to I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here, so thank you to all involved!

You can download and print Nick’s posters for yourself using the links below:

Nick also has a limited amount of prints of the posters available to post out. Contact him through his blog to get hold of one:

To read more about CREST awards and get involved, head to the British Science Association website:

Posted on November 4, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Nick Wright did with his prize money…

What Hugh Harvey did with his prize money…

Hugh Harvey of the Institute of Cancer Research won the Light Zone in March 2015. He quickly got to work and here he tells us see how made the best of his £500 prize money

I wanted to put the prize money towards buying a 3D printer for a local school, and setting up a 3D printing club for the children. This is a great opportunity to spread awareness and experience of 3D printing to school children – something which I hope will encourage them to take up science careers.


This ain’t your parent’s inkjet– It’s got a whole new dimension, plus cool sci-fi lighting effects!

A call went out to all schools who take part in STEMnet projects in Sussex for them to tell me why they deserved the 3D printer. I also got in contact with the super generous team at Ultimaker who loved the idea and offered to help part-fund the project. In fact, they were so keen to help they even offered a free one month loan printer as a second place prize for another school! Ultimaker run a fantastic education programme based around 3D printing, and I’m very happy to be partnering with them to help provide a school with a brilliant 3D printing educational package.

On top of this, the talented 3D modeller and designer Brian Richardson heard about the competition and offered the winning school one of his gorgeous models for free, to get the kids inspired!

Six schools responded to the STEMSussex call for entries, with each school submitting a short statement as to why they deserved a free 3D printer. I read and re-read them, and took the bank holiday weekend to decide… All schools were of course worthy and put across a great statement, but in the end there can only be one winner!


Hugh, 3D printer, and the students of Longhill High School STEM club. You’ll never guess which pupils are 3D printed clones.

The winner was Longhill High School. Head of Technology, Mr Matthews wrote a wonderful statement detailing his own experience with 3D modelling and printing, and his plans to get the kids creating a start-up business designing and selling models such as iPhone cases and jewellery, with profits being reinvested to purchase the raw materials needed to create more prints.

Longhill High School has a large proportion of students from underprivileged backgrounds who don’t often choose STEM careers so it is an absolute pleasure to be working with them and donating a free 3D printer. I recently visited the school as a STEM ambassador and helped to set-up the printer and the 3D printing club. Who knows – we might find the next 3D printing genius!

A valiant effort by Cardinal Newman Catholic School earned them the second prize of a 3D printer on loan for one month. They’ll get to try out what the printer can do, as well as benefit from all the educational support from UltimakerCREATE that’s on offer. Mrs Stone, their Head of Technology, wrote of the sheer excitement the pupils had of watching Youtube videos about 3D printers, so I can only imagine what the kids reaction will be once they get their hands on one in the classroom!

My thanks also go out to Daniel Hawkins at STEMSussex who helped organise this competition and visits.

Follow Hugh on twitter @DrHughHarvey and check out his blog,, for more 3D printing adventures.

Posted on October 14, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Hugh Harvey did with his prize money…

What Grant Kennedy did with his prize money…

Grant was the winner of the Astronomy Zone in June 2013. We asked him for an update on how he has been using the prize money and here is what he said…

My I’m a Scientist memories are of a crazy few weeks where I typed as fast as I could trying to answer myriad questions. I don’t think my keyboarding skills are any better as a result, but it was great to see so much interest in my field!

I began with a vague idea of spending my winnings on a camera, and using it to take timelapse videos of the sky and what happens at some of the world’s great observatories, which I visit now and then. At some point I realised that lots of people already do this, (such as Christopher Malin), and they do a way better job than I ever could.

I love photography however, so I went ahead and bought a Gopro, with the new goal of using it to make some short films that aim to give an idea of what my job as a scientist is actually like. To show the cool stuff where I get to travel the world and hang out with other scientists, but also the less exciting everyday stuff where I sit at my desk and scratch my head.

Chin-scratching stimulates the scientific process.

Me sitting at my desk in Cambridge. I really am working! See the plots on my screen changing and me scratching my chin? Chin-scratching stimulates the scientific process.

Progress on this has been harder than I thought. It turns out there’s a knack to making time lapses look interesting, but not nauseating. I stuck the GoPro to my helmet for my bike ride to school (yes, I call it school because I go there to learn!), but the resulting film is rather disorientating. I also sat it on my desk while I drank my tea one morning, that works better, and you can see a short clip of it above. I’m slowly building up a bunch of these that make up a “typical” day, and when I’ve got enough I’ll put them together with a narrative to explain what my day to day life as a scientist is really like.

Body language is 90% of science communciation

Me (in front of the blackboard) answering a question after a talk I gave at a conference at the Paris Observatory. I can’t remember either the question or the answer, but it clearly required me to wave my arms around. Luckily, body language is 90% of science communication.

I’ve also taken the camera on a few trips over the last year, to Santiago in Chile and to Paris. I made a really long timelapse of me giving a talk at a conference, and you can see a wee cut out of me explaining something by waving my arms around a lot. I’ll be taking the GoPro to some more places this year to build up a video of what a less typical day, where I get to go somewhere interesting, is like.

My hope is that when I’m done I can convince someone in a totally different field of science to take the camera and make their own videos, with the same goal of giving an idea of what a day or two in the life of a scientist is really like.

Posted on September 9, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Grant Kennedy did with his prize money…

What Ceri Brenner did with her prize money

Ceri won the Quantum Zone way back in June 2011. We caught up with her to see what she has been able to do using the £500 prize money and here is what she said…

My idea for the prize money was “Plasmas in your Pocket”– to design and print a set of beautiful, intriguing and educational coasters that can be used in cafes, bars and other recreational areas to introduce the public to laser-plasmas and their applications. To draw a person in the coasters rely only on the stunning snapshots of glowing plasmas that we’ve captured during high power laser experiments at the Central Laser Facility outside Oxford. Once they’ve admired the aesthetic beauty of the image, a second layer of wonder is offered if a person reads and learns what it is that they’re looking at and the societal benefit of the research.

To make this happen I partnered with Chris Hatherill, from pop science initiative Super-Collider, to design the coasters and realise the brief within the budget of £500.

Coaster designs

The designs of the coasters shine an extremely high energy light on the world of plasma physics.

We managed to come up with 3 designs and printed 1000 copies of each design with the given budget. So far I’ve been trialling them out at bars, cafes, public talks and events throughout 2015. I’ve taken them with me for school and public talks across the UK and have sent them to friends to distribute in Sydney, Australia and Washington, US. They were popular at my favourite rum bar, Milk, in Reading, which is my perfect target audience as they’re mostly 20-30 somethings with maybe a tech and sci interest but no background.

The produced coasters

The real thing, printed up and ready to take laser light physics into more bars than a round of pub golf.

I still have just under half of the original 3000 left, so there’s still a chance for people to get their hands on them! If they prove to be popular then I will look to seek further funding for more coasters from STFC or the Institute of Physics through their public engagement schemes.

Posted on August 26, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Ceri Brenner did with her prize money

What Sam Connolly did with the prize money

Sam ConnollySam was the runner up in the Astronomy Zone of June 2014. The zone winner, Roberto, decided to support Sam’s project with the £500, as he had secured funding for his own project from the Science and Technology Facilities Council through his STFC Public Engagement Fellowship.

We asked Sam to tell us how he had made use of the prize money over the last year, and here is what he said……

I took part in the Astronomy Zone in June 2014 and it was an incredibly busy zone. With 425 students involved who asked over six hundred questions, and almost eight thousand lines of live chat over 18 different chats, we were all kept extremely busy talking about space for the whole fortnight.

A huge number of brilliant questions were asked, about whether aliens existed and where they might be, how black holes and worm holes work, what dark matter is, and many other things. We were very lucky to have such an interested group of students to talk to.

Sam talking to students

The prize money gave me the chance to share my passion for astronomy with the next generation. thanks to I’m a Scientist and Roberto!

The outreach project I decided to spend the prize money on was to go into schools with the University of Southampton Astronomy Physics and Astronomy department’s ‘Astrodome‘, which is an inflatable, portable planetarium! The planetarium is used to project the stars all around our audience, so that we can explain the things people can see with their own eyes in the night sky. We can then zoom in on different objects in space like planets, galaxies and nebulae, as if we were using a telescope, so that we can explain the science behind the objects that we study as astronomers, and talk about the many questions we still need to answer.

Students inside the Astrodome

The students inside the Astrodome, getting ready for an out-of-this-world trip!

I went to ten different schools with the planetarium using the prize money, with the aim of getting school students interested and excited about astronomy and science in general. The money was used to pay for rental and fuel for the van used to transport the Astrodome to the schools.

One of the schools I chose to go to was the secondary school I went to myself before becoming a scientist, Bulmershe School in Reading. The experience I had learning science at school and the great physics teachers I had were extremely important in my decision to study physics at university and eventually become an astronomer. For this reason, I wanted to try to pass some of the enthusiasm for science I have gained back to the school and its current pupils, and attempt to inspire a new generation of scientists there, as well as in the other schools I visited.

The Astrodome team

Teacher and students with me and my faithful Astrodome, the big, beautiful, portable planetarium itself.

University of Southampton Astrodome Planetarium shows are free for local schools! Head to their website,, for more information on show content and to book them for your school.

You can read about Roberto Trotta’s Hands-on Universe project here:

Posted on August 19, 2015 modantony in STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Sam Connolly did with the prize money

What Sam Geen did with his prize money…

samgeenSam won the Extreme Speed Zone in 2013. We asked him to write us up a brief report on how he’s been spending his £500. Here’s what he said:

I took part in the Extreme Speed zone back in June 2013. It was one of the busiest zones that month with 491 students, 1182 questions and 7749 lines of live chat. We were asked about everything from galaxies to subatomic particles, as well as what bananas and galaxies have in common. My sister even pitched in to correct me on psychology – turns out that your heart can actually trick your brain into thinking you’re in love (see Sams edit below for the link to the question).

Build your own galaxy Demo

Build Your Own Galaxy demo running at iGAM4ER

My project was to create a version of the code I use in my research on huge supercomputers that anyone can pick up and use to make galaxies. Since the event I’ve been fiddling with Fortran and poking at Python trying to get something that is easy to use, fast and educational. I presented a tech demo to the 2013 iGAM4ER competition  in the Cité des Sciences in Paris. This demo had a galaxy being formed over the course of the event, with a Wiimote set up to allow people wandering through to pan around it in 3D as it evolved. It was a fun but tiring event.

I’ve set up a website at Build Your own Galaxy, where you can track my progress. Last year I hacked up a proof-of-concept called Super Supernova that you can try out on the site. This is a simple illustration of how exploding stars called supernovae can shape a galaxy by blowing gas out of the galactic disk. Go to the site and try it out!

Sam at  iGAM4ER 2013

Sam at iGAM4ER 2013

Since this project mostly uses up my free time rather than my spare cash, I decided to donate half of my prize money to GalileoMobile, a non-profit project where teachers and astronomers travel around the world to places such as India, Uganda and Bolivia to bring astronomy to children who don’t otherwise have the resources that we have to learn about the night sky here in the UK. They used the money to buy a sunspotter telescope (see below) to make images of the sun and identify the location of sunspots, and will take it out on their upcoming expeditions to South America this year.


The Galileo Mobile Sunspotter telescope

The sunspotter telescope that GalileoMobile bought with Sam’s donation

Posted on February 25, 2015 modantony in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Sam Geen did with his prize money…

What Ben Still did with his prize money…

BenStillBen won the Subatomic Zone in November 2011, here’s where his £500 went:

Winning I’m A Scientist the first time was amazing but the second time has really put the icing on the cake! I have been telling my peers that it is the best crash course in science communication you can get with or without leaving your desk.

I have used my money to fund my travel and involvement in art-science collaborations across London and most importantly the Jiggling Atoms project. Particle physics and illustration collided in the Jiggling Atoms project; the brainchild of artist Natalie Kay-Thatcher. Over six months 25 dedicated artists attended lectures and seminars about physics! They were set the task of visually interpreting aspects of the often-viewed incomprehensible world of particle physics.

A series of four lectures from co-organisers Malte Oppermann and Jennifer Crouch transported the artists from everyday experience and thinking into the strange realm of the atom and scientific methodology. They learnt of the guiding forces and lumpy discrete nature of Nature. Then in a final lecture from myself we went deeper down the rabbit hole, smaller than the atom to explore particles.

Jiggling Atoms is a project to create art from physics ideas

The Jiggling Atoms team, including Ben on the far right. Image by Jiggling Atoms

Once enthused and educated about all things science; the artists were given five short briefs. Each brief explored different aspects of particle physics; quantum weirdness, the space between particles, ‘seeing’ particles with machines, symmetries and the rules of Nature, and the very early history of the Universe. Various methods of interpretation were also suggested; a toy or game, image or series of images, object, comic strip, or info-graphic. While ideas were taking seed a number of seminars and e-mail conversations followed. From these discussions the briefs took on new and exciting dimensions as artists and scientists’ explored ideas of representing the subject matter off brief.

We hosted an exhibition of the work produced and array of workshops and talks between 1st-7th October 2012. But the project does not stop there! Jiggling Atoms is an idea more than a one off project and it continues today through the brilliant website designed by artistic director Rosie Eveleigh. We hope to expand the activities of Jiggling Atoms in the near future – watch this space!

Posted on November 6, 2013 in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Ben Still did with his prize money…

What Sam Vinko did with his prize money…

samvinkoSam won the Electromagnetic Zone in March 2012, he tells us where his winnings went:

Following my victory in the I’m a Scientist competition, I donated my prize money to support the charity Sense about Science.

As the name suggests, Sense about Science is all about helping people make sense of science and evidence. They are a source of information, counter misinformation and champion research and high quality evidence. By working with scientists, policy makers, the public and the media they give people the tools to think critically about claims being made daily about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education or anything else.

Their Ask for Evidence campaign aims to hold the people who make these claims accountable. It says that if anyone wants us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we, as consumers, patients, voters and citizens, should ask them for evidence.

People are challenging things like the retail chain selling supposedly MRSA resistant pyjamas; a juice bar for the evidence behind wheatgrass detox claims or the Department of Health about rules for Viagra prescriptions. So Sense About Science are all about getting the public to think critically about scientific claims and they have loads of resources and database of scientists who volunteer their time and expertise to help people understand the evidence.

I’d encourage you all to have a look at their website: and start making the best possible use of all the various resources offered to help support the important choices we all make in everyday life.

Posted on October 17, 2013 in News, STFCWinner, Winner Reports | Comments Off on What Sam Vinko did with his prize money…