Discover Materials Engages the Next Generation at Big Bang 2024

Partnering with the Henry Royce Institute (Royce), Discover Materials returned to The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair to engage with thousands of young people and educators. The event is held annually at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) and sets out to inspire the next generation with hands-on activities, workshops and experiments.

Taking place from Wednesday 19th to Friday 21st June 2024, Big Bang is the UK’s largest celebration of STEM for young people and offers competitions such as the UK Young Scientist and UK Young Engineer award. By attending, young students are given the opportunity to connect directly with leading organisations and research institutions active in areas such as energy and transport, health and wellbeing, technology and innovation, as well as environment and sustainability.

With four islands offering a wide range of hands-on activities and experiments, the Discover Materials stand showcased exciting areas of materials science research and encouraged visitors to explore how materials science fits into the world around them.

One section allowed users to have a go at 3D printing using ‘Doodle Pens’ to trace pictures of animals and plants that have inspired materials research.

Visitors could also take turns in using different tensile testing methods to see how much force it would take to stretch different samples, such as test pieces made on the day, polypropylene dog bone structures and different tennis racket strings.

Discover Materials was also able to secure a partnership with ZEISS Microscopy, one of the world’s leading microscope manufacturers. By using the ZEISS microscopes, attendees could explore the microstructures present on natural surfaces including insect specimens, burdock, lotus leaves, corrugated cardboard and many more.

Commenting on the importance of engaging with young people, Dr. Chris Hamlett, Henry Royce Institute’s National Outreach Officer for Discover Materials said:

“It is important to engage school pupils with hand-on activities as it helps them to appreciate the relevance of materials science in everyday life and, by having a go themselves, gives them the confidence and belief that they too can carry out their own scientific investigations.”

Other activities featured across the Discover Materials stand included a ‘Materials in Space’ section, where visitors could use UV torches to explore which material(s) offer the best protection for a visor or space suit.

The ‘Porosity in Materials’ activity, which was designed by Dan Scotson, a PhD student at The University of Manchester and Discover Materials Ambassador, encouraged attendees to evaluate the effect of porosity on the properties of materials. Several boxes filled with spheres of varying sizes were used to model particle packing.

Volunteers from The University of Manchester, The University of Sheffield, Birmingham University and Imperial College London joined the Discover Materials stand across the 2-day event, welcoming thousands of young students and educators to the fair for another successful Big Bang event.

Through their partnership, Discover Materials and Royce continue to deliver outreach with the hopes of inspiring the next generation of materials scientists and engineers. For more information about MSE outreach activities, visit the Discover Materials website.

Discover Materials is a collaboration between a group of UK Universities, the Henry Royce Institute, and other members of the materials science community with a mission to inspire school pupils and their teachers into learning about materials science and engineering.

As the UK’s national institute for advanced materials, Royce is committed to inspiring the next generation of materials scientists and engineers into the field. Alongside providing access to our national cutting-edge research facilities, Royce is actively fostering an engaged learning community in materials science and engineering throughout the UK. To find out more about outreach at Royce visit: