A Science lecturer from Gower College Swansea has been selected to attend the largest European educational fair, which will see primary and STEM teachers from 30 countries gather to exchange innovative teaching concepts and present their most innovative ideas.
Denise Thomas, who teaches Chemistry at the Gorseinon campus, will participate in the prestigious Science on Stage Festival 2017 when it takes place in Hungary in June.
Gower College Swansea was awarded ‘Associate’ status by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy, in 2015 and is the only FE college in Wales to have been selected to attend this year.
With a firm focus on research and engaging students outside the curriculum, Denise will present on a project that her students worked on entitled ‘Using anaerobic digestion of seaweed as a renewable energy source for the Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay.)’
“This came about as the Tidal Lagoon team were looking to design a way of using their resources to produce renewable energy,” says Denise. “This in turn provided an opportunity for our students to work with local industry and academia to develop a sustainable energy source. The outcome of months of research and development was a method of growing seaweed in the lagoon that could be digested into biogas.”
Working in partnership with STEM Cymru, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) and EnAlgae (National University of Ireland, Galway) proved to be an inspirational experience for the students, many of whom now intend to pursue a career in engineering and have progressed to higher education – two are currently at Cambridge University.
The project also brought them recognition in the form of awards - the Gold CREST from the British Science Association for their work with local companies, an Energy Efficiency Award (The Nation Grid Award for Best Energy Appreciation) at the EESW All Wales final and The Wales Quality and Innovation Award (Education Prize).
“Ideally, the teachers I meet at the Science on Stage Festival will see how much can be gained by working with students on a shared goal i.e. creating engaged, enthusiastic young people with improved employability skills,” adds Denise. “It was so rewarding to see them work together outside the classroom - they were vibrant, focussed, productive and related remarkably well to the research staff from the universities and the Tidal Lagoon team. Bringing research into the classroom environment is so positive and can show learners that, as teachers, we don’t ‘know everything’ and that we can go on a learning journey together.”