Connected Health Cities goes back to school with the British Science Association

Group CHC Hub

Posted on the 12th July 2018

On the 19th of June 2018 Connected Health Cities joined forces with the Manchester branch of the British Science Association and Manchester University’s school of Electrical and Electronic Engineering to host a day-long science journalism workshop and competition for AS and A-level students across Greater Manchester. On the day eight schools stepped up to the challenge and teams of between six and nine pupils created their own one-minute news report based on an interview with a University Researcher.

Three of CHC’s staff, including researchers and communications specialists, took part in the day’s activities, teaching students some tricks of the communications trade and discussing their research projects.

CHC’s communication lead Stephen Melia kicked the day off with an introduction to the do’s and don’ts of science communication. From TED talks to METRO gaffs, Stephen covered the highs and lows of the communication ecosystem and gave the students a number of pointers for creating lows of the communication ecosystem and gave the students a number of pointers for creating their own journalistic pieces.

Following Stephen’s introduction and a break for some much needed re-fulling, the students separated into school teams to meet their assigned researchers and conduct their interviews. Researchers stayed with their teams for two hours, giving ample opportunity to discuss their work, academic lives, aspirations and everything in-between. The students were encouraged to be creative and to present their assigned academics’s work in a way which would appeal to other young people.

Without exception, the students threw themselves into the task using their knowledge, curiosity and indeed scepticism to draw out newsworthy stories from our researchers and gain insight into the academic world.

Software Engineer and Games Developer Ben Green commented: “I think it’s really wonderful to see the enthusiasm and indeed scepticism of teenagers. It’s simply their mode to question and challenge; a disposition I tend to think is lost all too easily later on.

Ben spoke to students about his work using data on childhood growth patterns, collected across Greater Manchester, as a predictor of future health and wellbeing outcomes (https://www.champ.mft.nhs.uk/). The projects aim is to support understanding of weight-related health problems and to encourage positive lifestyle choices. However, any discussion regarding weight is also prone to raise concerns surrounding self esteem and eating disorders. Ben’s students worked hard to present a balanced overview of this work. The addition of vox pop style street interviews in their video showed team work and a desire to introduce the public voice into the discussion, not to mention their use of catchy title music.

Regarding his experience Ben commented “It was exciting, challenging, fun and really worthwhile use of my time!

Dr Camilla Sammut-Powell also worked with a group of students on the day, explaining her work as a medical statistician and how she feels that patient data can be used to save lives. Her students took a light hearted dramatic approach to telling Camilla’s research story, approaching it through the tale of two students struggling to answer an exam question.

Following the workshop Camilla commented: “It was really enjoyable engaging with the students; it was great to see their enthusiasm in understanding more about my journey as a researcher as well as their creative approach to the task.

The challenge of filming, editing and finessing a one-minute video during a single nine to five workshop should not be underestimated. However, all eight student teams stepped up to the task and created an impressive array of content. Competition judge Michael Addelman (News and Media Relations Officer with UoM) said: “Our overall assessment is that these videos are very impressive – and it’s abundantly clear that the students put much time and effort into making them. Considering how difficult it is to create video content, the students have shown if you put in the time, effort and enthusiasm, you really can successfully communicate science using this format

Event organisers Dr Michael O’Toole and Dr Sarah Fox were pleased with the level of engagement students showed and were impressed with the skill and enthusiasm evident in their video submissions. Sarah commented “This has been an excellent opportunity to engage students outside of the classroom, combining arts and science to give a greater understanding of how science and research fit into society.

Let’s hope that this event has inspired a new generation of health informaticians who will utilise medical data to save lives.

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