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Titan II truck among new attractions at MDX STEM Festival for British Science Week

Visitors scour for microplastics, power games with their brainwaves and jump on a VR roller coaster at outreach event

Middlesex University London's annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Festival, full of games and interactive exhibits, was held in the Quad on Wednesday 13th March during British Science Week.

The event gave budding scientists the chance to interact with robots, use their brainwaves to complete tasks, learn about the future of computing and about biochemistry’s role in treating disease, and ask Middlesex lecturers and students questions about their scientific passions.

Global electronics distributor Electrocomponents' Titan II truck, at 35 tonnes the largest movable roadshow trailer in Europe, was parked in Scholars' Yard. Pupils climbed on board to discover 16 interactive displays showcasing technologies such as Raspberry Pi, 3D printing, internet of things and thermal imaging.

Also new for 2019, visitors could test their powers of observation by looking down a microscope at tiny particles of different plastics, in an exhibit to highlight MDX research into the role of microplastics in transferring pollutants.

The Festival was open to groups from North London schools from 10am-3pm. Science communicator Dr Emily Grossman gave a talk on Weird and Wonderful Science Facts, in which she also spoke about her experiences in science, and the aggressively competitive and sexist attitudes she has sometimes faced.

“One of the main reasons young people don’t pursue careers in STEM is not because they don’t enjoy science or are not good at it but because they think ‘it’s not for people like me,’" she told students.

“You don’t have to be top of the class to have a career in science. You just have to enjoy it and work hard.”

From 5-7pm the Festival opened its doors to the public. Displays included:

  • testing your strength using the latest sports science equipment
  • having a go on the terrifyingly realistic virtual roller coaster, the MDX Motion Driven eXperience
  • building models of "molecules of excitement" against the clock
  • finding out how good you are at focusing your thoughts or meditating by interacting with objects on a screen while wearing a specialised EEG headset

VIP visitors to the Festival included Mayor of Barnet Cllr Reuben Thompstone, a science teacher by profession, and Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius.

Year 7 St Mary's and St John's Church of England School student Michael Hagar in Hendon said his favourite attraction at the festival was the Motion Driven eXperience. “I want to [study] all three sciences, Biology, Physics and Chemistry, and I want to be an orthopaedic surgeon,” he said.

Leading employers, policy experts and government ministers all emphasise the importance of STEM qualifications and skills to navigate today’s rapidly evolving jobs landscape. Middlesex is dedicated to helping science and technology students achieve these, with teaching closely linked to industry practices, and cutting-edge facilities available such as the UK’s first Cyber Physical Factory training unit, equipped with Industry 4.0 technologies, in partnership with FESTO Didactic and Siemens.

"Our Festival offers young people a unique opportunity to explore STEM subjects through a variety of interactive activities and demonstrations" says MDX Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Blackman. "Our aim is that they will be motivated to become the scientists, engineers and mathematicians of tomorrow."

“At Middlesex we challenge students to push the boundaries of their potential to analyse, create and discover across a wide range of exciting subjects. We provide an environment where students learn skills now that they can put to good use in jobs that have not yet even been created.”

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