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Design a Fireworks Show! - using Context and Problem Based Learning

Lead Institution: University of Bath
Collaborating with: University of Exeter, Plymouth University

Project Summary

Reigniting the Ashfield Music Festival project for Chemistry Undergraduates: a Context and Problem Based Learning (CPBL) approach to teaching transferable skills.

Chemistry Students

Chemistry Students

This project took the Ashfield Music Festival model developed by the Institute of Physics and reworked it to develop a Fireworks-based CPBL activity for use by second year Chemistry undergraduates. The students were tasked with running a simluated fireworks display, an activity that involved the development of key transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership and commercial awareness in a discipline-specific context and that required some basic undergraduate chemistry knowledge. It was felt that opportunities to develop these skills can sometimes be lacking during STEM degree programmes but are highly prized by employers.

The resources were developed with involvement from industry (Alchemy Fireworks and Skyburst the Firework Company) which allowed the effective alignment of skills needs of employers and the needs of the STEM graduates themselves. In addition, the use of PhD students as 'experts' during the CPBL activity had the benefit of improving their communication and employability skills.

The project produced an activity pack containing worksheets, briefing papers and presentations, allowing the resource to be easily adopted by other HEIs.

Aims & Objectives

The aim of the project was to:

Develop a CPBL activity, inspired by the Ashfield Music Festival, through which Chemistry undergraduates are able to develop key transferable skills such as commercial awareness, communication and teamwork within a discipline-relevant context.

The project:

1. Built on good practice garnered from the Ashfield Music Festival CPBL activity and from relevant industry links to develop a new, fireworks-based CPBL activity for 2nd year Chemistry undergraduates

2. Trialed the activity at the University of Bath over 5 weeks as part of a non-credit bearing course in the Department of Chemistry

3. Engaged 23 Chemistry undergraduates in the activity, alongside 4 PhD students acting as 'experts'

Staff involved

Dr Gan Shermer
Project lead, University of Bath

Emily M MacCready
Project coordinator, University of Bath

Nicola King
University of Exeter

Roy Lowry
Plymouth University