Young Science Academy stars collect awards

Thursday 13th March 2014


Science is on the agenda at Muirkirk Primary – and it’s proving a very popular choice.

So much so that the school has formed its very own Science Academy, which meets on a weekly basis, led by Professor Daniel Gorman of the Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society (KESS).

KESS promotes engineering and science in Kilmarnock and East Ayrshire. Each year, the society adopts a school for special support with scientific activities and resources. During 2013-14, Muirkirk PS was lucky enough to be the adopted school.

As part of this association between the society and the school, 14 pupils were enrolled in the Science Academy, supported by the Young Engineers and Scince Clubs Scotland, which ran every Thursday afternoon between January and March 2014. The youngsters were selected by their teachers as having demonstrated extraordinary interest and ability in science.

The children were introduced to more advanced science by Professor Gorman (physics), Dr Karen Alexander of Dumfries House (chemistry) and Mrs Jennifer Macara of Auchinleck Academy (biology).

A highlight of the Academy was a visit by Dr Alan Mitchell, Clinical Director, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and a former pupil of Muirkirk PS and Auchinleck Academy. Dr Mitchell told the pupils about his career as a doctor and the places around the world where his work has taken him. He explained to the fascinated youngsters how the human heart works and demonstrated the use of stethoscopes.

Crowning their Academy experience, the 14 budding young scientists travelled to Dumfries House, Cumnock, to celebrate their achievements. They took part in a fun workshop of scientific experiments – and then graduated as members of the Academy.

Professor Daniel Gorman said: “The Muirkirk Primary School Science Academy has been immensely successful. As a result, these 14 youngsters have come to recognise and be proud of their undoubted extraordinary scientific ability and they are now aware that this can help them achieve a marvellous future for themselves in science or engineering”.

Professor Gorman also announced that during 2014-15, Willowbank School, Kilmarnock, will be adopted by KESS for special scientific support.

Councillor Stephanie Primrose, Spokesperson for Lifelong Learning, said: “This has been a tremendous experience for the children from Muirkirk Primary. Many thanks to Professor Gorman and Dr Alexander for their excellent input, making the youngsters’ first steps in science so memorable and enjoyable.

“Science, technology, engineering and maths are high on our agenda as drivers in education, looking to potential future careers for young people.

“I look forward to the good work continuing at Willowbank, providing more fabulous opportunities for pupils there”.

National Science and Engineering Week
Monday 17th and Wednesday 19th March 2014

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The generosity of the British Science Association and KESS members enabled Muirkirk Primary School to rent the Dark Skies Planetarium for Wednesday 19th March. The Planetarium was the centre piece of the school's National Science and Engineering Week. In addition to the pupils, Planetarium shows were also presented to the nursery pupils and Muirkirk community as a whole. The week also included presentations by Nick Martin of  the Ayrshire Astronomical Society (who brought along a telescope so they could see solar flairs) and Maire Gorman, a PhD student of astrophyics at University College London, who demonstrated a Van Der Graaf Generator and also talked about the solar system.


Hawking evening for young scientists

Wednesday 19th March 2014


Organised by Kilmarnock Engineering and Science Society (KESS) in Kilmarnock Academy, the evening was open to all 5th and 6th year science pupils in East Ayrshire. Also present were two young graduates of the KESS Muirkirk Primary Science Academy – Gabriel Martin and John Johnstone.

Celebrating the life and work of brilliant mathematician and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking FRS, retired Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, the event commenced with a showing of the Film 4 biopic ‘Hawking’.

Internationally eminent cosmologist Professor Martin Hendry, Head of Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow University, delivered a short lecture exploring Hawking’s research achievements.

Representatives from local secondary schools were presented with copies of international bestseller A Brief History of Time to take back to their school libraries.

Professor Gorman said: “This was a first class event attended by senior school students from all over Ayrshire, together with pupils and parents from Muirkirk Primary School – the KESS ‘adopted’ school for special help with science during 2013/14.

“The story of Stephen Hawking is a story of an extraordinary life and outstanding scientific achievement and can therefore only inspire the young people who attended”.

Councillor Eoghann MacColl, Spokesperson for Lifelong Learning, said: “STEM subjects are key to building successful future career paths for many of our young learners – and science and engineering are growth areas for jobs.

“Last year we saw more school leavers than ever reach positive career destinations. It is exemplary practice like this KESS educational event which assists such success for our young people”.

This event was sponsored by the Scottish Government and British Science Association, as part of National Science and Engineering Week 2014.

East Ayrshire Schools Science and Engineering Lectures

June 2014 


On Thursday 19th June 2014, St Joseph's Academy and KESS organised the third annual "Science and Engineering - The Future"  lecture. All third year secondary school students across East Ayrshire who had elected to study science were invited .  Also present was Dr Karen Alexander, STEM Co-ordinator, Dumfries House. The event was opend by Professor Danny Gorman of KESS who spoke to the students about the strong and intrinsic relationship between energy and materials.

 This was then followed by the first lecture, entitled “Engineering, Energy and the Environment - the long view”, by Professor Colin McInnes MBE of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace, University of Strathclyde.  This lecture demonstrated the means by which large-scale engineering ventures can offer a route to future prosperity. In particular, the delivery of long-term energy security was explored as was the so-called geoengineering schemes to mitigate potential climate change impacts. He argued that the apparent near-term bottleneck in human development can be overcome by considering engineering on both visionary length-scales and time-scales.

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The second lecture, entitled, “Nitrides - the Rainbow Material”, was then delivered by Dr Carol Trager Cowan of the Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde. Her lecture described the  development of efficient nitride LED’s.   Present applications of nitride LEDs extend from automotive, architectural and street lighting, to back lighting in mobile phones, laptops and tablets, to traffic lights. She argued that using LEDs for lighting will reduce the world’s electricity bill by around 50%, and reduce CO2 emission by of order 2000 million tonnes worldwide.

These two lectures  further  illustrated the intrinsic link between energy and materials .