IfM researchers hope to drum up interest in engineering
Nigel L. Williams and Soren E. Maloney
One of the steel drum experiments
Mention steel drums and you might think of the Notting Hill Carnival or the Caribbean – rather than a powerful new way of getting youngsters interested in engineering. However, two researchers from the IfM reckon the popular musical instrument could be just the way to get children from ethnic minorities interested in science and technology.
Soren Maloney and Nigel Williams are working with schools in London to launch a unique pilot project which they hope will help address the problem.
Soren explained: “My PhD research looked at the materials and manufacturing of Caribbean steelpan drums. We realised that the way people go about making these drums teaches some basic elements of engineering and science, acoustics, materials and manufacturing which could be a culturally relevant way of encouraging these kids into engineering.”
Soren joined forces with fellow researcher Nigel Williams to think of how they could present the research as a project which would appeal to youngsters.
Nigel said: “There are lots of summer programmes designed for underprivileged kids. They give them a taste of what engineering is all about. But for some students you need something grounded in their own experience, something that is culturally relevant.
“What the programme will do is show them how this familiar instrument breaks down into different areas of technological and scientific knowledge. It’s about learning by doing.”
The pair have just had a paper published in the London Journal of Tourism, Sport and the Creative Industries outlining the opportunities provided by the scheme. Nigel and Soren are currently applying for grant funding from the Higher Education Academy to develop their curriculum and launch the pilot project. Aimed at youngsters aged between 15-18, it will involve the children using different materials and processes to make the instruments and seeing the impact on the end result.