Gloucestershire Schoolchildren Wow Panel of Science Professionals in Major Competition

Gloucestershire secondary school pupils have impressed an esteemed panel of judges during a large event at Tewkesbury’s Roses Theatre – competing to show off their science communication skills and to win a coveted regional award for their school. 

Students from 23 of the county’s secondary schools have been honing their skills to become science communicators of the future as part of the FameLab Academy competition. Led by locally-based arts charity Cheltenham Festivals, and sponsored by EDF Energy, FameLab Academy is an educational initiative which seeks to revolutionise science communication in schools. 

In the competition, Year 9 students, supported by their teachers and an industry STEM Mentor, and expert trainer Jules Howard, prepare three-minute presentations to explain a scientific topic dynamically and engagingly to a panel of judges. They are judged on content, clarity and charisma. 

Last week’s regional final was compered by Jamie Gallagher, a professional science communicator and a previous Scottish champion of FameLab’s adult iteration. It was a chance for the students to present all they had achieved to a panel of industry figures – and the results were impressive! 

One of the judges was Jo Durrant of BBC Radio Gloucestershire, who joined  Adam Hart of the University of Gloucestershire and Kerissa Khan, President-Elect of the Royal Aeronautical Society, on the panel.  

“I’ve been judging FameLab Academy since 2017 and it’s always difficult to choose a winner and runners up,” says Jo. “But this year was especially tough!  

The standard was incredibly high and every single finalist should be so proud of getting up on stage and delivering 3-minute talks packed with science, energy and passion. It’s one of the highlights of my year, so thank you for another entertaining final.” 

During the FameLab Academy year, pupils across each of the twenty-three schools have competed to represent their school at the final, developing new knowledge and skills around this crucial area of the curriculum. A winner from each school receives a Masterclass in science communication and all participants can apply for a Bronze CREST award from the British Science Association. 

In last week’s regional final, in front of audiences of a hundred and more, the 23 school finalists competed to be named the region’s most impressive. 

This year’s two winners were Chloe Burke of Wyedean School and Islay Nolan of St Edward’s School. There were also four runners-up: Charlie Roberts of Severn Vale School, Amelia Crockett of Stroud High School, Isabella Stickney of Cirencester Kingshill School and Izzy Downs of Katherine Lady Berkeley’s School.  

The students will be part of a “Celebrating FameLab” event at this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival (6-11 June 2023), joining onstage their counterparts from the adult competitions, FameLab UK and FameLab International. 

Speaking after her success, Isabella was clear about the benefits of taking part in FameLab Academy: “My confidence has improved and I’ve enjoyed every single aspect,” she said. 

Her enthusiasm was echoed by Kelly Turner, Learning and Participation Manager (STEM) at Cheltenham Festivals. “The final was an incredible day. The pupils were amazing and presented their STEM topics with such enthusiasm and passion. 

“We are so proud of FameLab Academy and how it highlights the importance of science within schools, giving a platform for young people to express their interest in all things STEM. A huge well done to our two winners, four runners up and all the finalists from the day.” 

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