Category Archives: School-University Engagement

Searching for ‘diamonds’ in the rough

During the summer holidays I completed a five-week Nuffield Research Placement. This took place at the Open University in the School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (EEES).

My project was to assist in exploring the nature of gypsum crystals found in deep-sea sediments from monsoon region.

A microscope view of gypsum crystals.

A microscope view of gypsum crystals.

My aims were to:

  • Investigate ocean sediments;
  • Identify crystals (quartz or something else?) and other marine, terrestrial and minerals formed during the sediment deposition, using a binocular microscope;
  • Determine the relative abundance of crystals with respect to other known fragments, such as pyrite and biogenic components;
  • Evaluate environmental changes related to physical weathering or any other processes operating during the sediment deposition.

This was all to help answer two related questions: 1) how were these crystals formed; and 2) what conditions were needed?

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Zero to hero – engaging teachers to teach network engineering

Andrew Smith, The Open University.

Andrew Smith, The Open University.

Since early January 2017, the School of Computing and Communications (represented by Senior Lecturer in Networking, Andrew Smith), the Open Media and Informal Learning (OMIL) Unit and the Open University’s Development Office have all been working with Cisco on a sponsored project to create content about computer networking for teachers (and school children). The content covers the national curriculum ‘computing’ domains of computer hardware and network engineering.

The resources are hosted on OpenLearn Create – the creative commons portal of the OpenLearn MOOCs.

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Supporting Excellence in Engaged Research

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University. Credit: Michael Francis.

I’ve recently agreed to take on a new role at the Open University (OU) as the Academic Lead for Engaged Research. I’ll be based in the OU’s Research and Academic Strategy (RAS) Unit for half of my time from 1st August 2017.

A key objective for my work in this new role will be to align the principles and practices of engaged research with the OU’s recently-approved Academic Strategy for External Engagement, in particular addressing the following aim:

“We will create new knowledge through research, scholarship and professional practice that meets the needs of external stakeholders and extends the reach and impact of our research on society, culture, economy and governments across the UK and internationally.”

Through this work, the OU will also fulfil its commitment to the RCUK Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, and the NCCPE Manifesto for Public Engagement (of which the OU is a signatory).

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Mission Possible: Milton Keynes students can handle the pressure

Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes

Helen Brown, Director of Denbigh Teaching School, Milton Keynes

On 12th July we ran a day-long completion where five teams from three schools across Milton Keynes competed to build a water-powered rocket.

The challenge was organised by researchers from the Open University (OU), working with teachers from Denbigh School. Together, we sought to build on the success of previous competitions.

Key among the organisers was Alice Dunford, from the OU’s School of Physical Sciences. Alice is studying for a PhD in astronomical imaging. She put her research aside for the day to act as our resident rocket scientist, offering advice and guidance to the competitors.

Alice was ably supported by Vic Pearson and Richard Holliman from the OU, Leanne Gunn from Science Made Simple, and myself and Adele Makki from Denbigh School. These contributors each helped to make the day a success.

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