< Case studies

Thandiwe Banda, Head of STEM, Portslade Aldridge Community Academy

About the Case Study

I have been entering my students’ projects into The Big Bang Competition for several years and really recommend the experience.

In 2017 a group of my students designed a new repellent using basil extract and won the intermediate science category at the Big Bang Fair. Completing this project enabled them to visit the London School of Tropical Medicine and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, as well as be part of the 2018 International Youth Science Forum which they found very rewarding.  

In 2018, 10 of my students’ projects won top prizes at the Big Bang @ Sutton Grammar. These students also went on to win silver and gold Crest awards because you can enter the same projects in different contests. The students received amazing prizes, including the opportunity to display their projects at The Crystal Siemens building for the Young Scientist Prize sponsored by the Mayor of London.

Competing at regional Big Bang Fairs has developed so many skills in my students which have been evident in their attitudes to careers and learning in lessons.

One of my students, Dexter, said this about the challenge:

“I have gained research writing skills and learnt how to prevent copyright infringement when writing reports. I have also learnt how to manage my time wisely and now understand how the science and maths I learn in lessons applies to different careers. I also get to work with so many different people.”

My tips for other educators on how to run projects in school 

The best part is that all students can research any area that they are interested in, which means they develop a vested interest in their work.

My top tip is to ask sixth form and older students to work with the younger students, as you see a lot more skill development in both groups of students.

Multiple-day STEM clubs work best and although they may take up your time in the first term, they become self-running over time as students understand what they have to do. For instance, my students now know to put in requisition sheets a week in advance for technicians as opposed to me having to do it for them.

As a facilitator, ensure you have projects that cover every aspect of STEM as more kids are likely to take it up and they will complete the projects to a high standard. For example, have 2 biology, chemistry and physics projects but ensure they all involve engineering or design processes.

Students can also develop as global citizens if projects are aimed at solving a global issue.

I also email as many companies as possible and local universities to help with projects and test any samples and most are very helpful and accommodate schools.

Why it’s fun for teachers to be involved

As a teacher preparing for the Big Bang, you learn so much about the students’ abilities that may not be as clear in normal lessons and tests.

Students with additional needs have particularly flourished in STEM when completing projects as they prefer alternative teaching methods.

You also get the opportunity to meet like-minded teachers who are passionate about STEM and developing research skills in students.