Public Engagement

Penwortham Primary School

Workshops at Penwortham Primary School

In October 2013 Imperial College HexMat team members met with Alastair Ripley, Science Coordinator, Penwortham Primary School (Southwest London). Plans for the School Engagement Programme were discussed, involving HexMat PDRAs and postgraduate students visiting the school on a termly basis to carry out thought-provoking and inspiring mini-projects with 5-11 year old students.



  • December 2015: 'Building Bridges'

In December 2015, members of the HexMat research team at Imperial College London visited Penwortham Primary school for yet another exciting school project. Abigail Ackerman, 2nd year HexMat PhD student and volunteers delivered a workshop on Bridges to year 3 students (ages 5-6).

Key topics which were covered included; materials selection –suitability, costs; and structural design of bridges.

Engineering concepts such as design and test were introduced to the students, with demonstrations and hands-on activities to aid their learning. Students were tasked to make bridges using newspapers. Prizes were handed out to the winning team who built the strongest bridge. A collective activity to build a bridge from newspaper, which could hold the weight of a child, was impressively successful!











  • April 2014: Circuit Theory and Renewables

Imperial College HexMat team visited Penwortham Primary School, Tooting on 25th April 2014 for another fun and interactive workshop. On this occasion Vivian Tong, HexMat PhD student, led a team of Imperial researchers to deliver a half-day workshop on ‘Circuit Theory and Renewables’ to 8-9 year old children. The morning session was packed with demonstrations and games as well as hands-on activities such as making their own electrical circuits and wind turbines. Those also contributing were Dr Jun Jiang, Dr Terry Jun, Dr Zhen Zhang, Dr Saira Naeem, Mitch Cuddihy, Tiantian Zhang and Victor Wan.





  • November 2013: 'How do aeroplanes fly?' (Rolls-Royce involvement)


Mitch Cuddihy, Dr Saira Naeem (HexMat Programme Manager) and Professor Fionn Dunne (PI, HexMat) led a group of HexMat and related researchers, together with Rolls-Royce Engineering Fellows David Rugg and Steve Williams, to Penwortham primary school, Tooting, on 26/11/13 to run a half-day introduction to "How do aeroplanes fly?" This continues what is planned to be a long-term relationship with Penwortham to bring applied science events to primary-level pupils. Those also contributing were Dr Jun Jiang, Tomi Erinisho, Bo Lan, Tiantian Zhang and Victor Wan.

The students were given the opportunity to discover how engineers design and build aeroplanes. Through an interactive approach, basic principles of aerodynamics were introduced. Students learnt about lift, air resistance and how different variables such as shape, wing flap design and elevation can influence the flight of a plane. The workshop covered key engineering concepts, including design, test and modification.

Penwortham Visit





HexMat and WCSIM Science and Engineering Schools Workshop



The HexMat and WCSIM (Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers) Science and Engineering Schools workshop took place on 3rd November in Glaziers Hall, London Bridge, with just under 100 students from Penwortham School in South London and Long Wittenham School in Oxfordshire taking part. This was a one-day workshop, inviting KS2 pupils to spend the day with practising scientists and engineers to work on exciting science projects. The day was packed with fun and interactive demonstrations, games and hands-on activities.

Postgraduate students (Mitch Cuddihy, Vivian Tong, Zebang Zheng, Jack Patten, Abigail Ackerman, Ning Hou and Tiantian Zhang), Postdoctoral Research Associates (Drs Zhen Zhang, Terry Jun, Eleni Sarakinou, Sudha Joseph, Thomas White, Bo Lan, Hamid Abdolvand and Rajesh Korla) and other members of the HexMat team (Dr Ben Britton and Prof Fionn Dunne) from Imperial College London, University of Manchester and University of Oxford, gathered together to run the workshop.

Two workshops were run in parallel, with groups of Penwortham and Long Wittenham School children working together. The workshop on aeroplanes asked 'How do aeroplanes fly?' (Led by Mitch Cuddihy, Imperial PhD student). Tasks included designing, making and modifying paper aeroplanes, and then testing the finished planes. Competitions took place which were judged by Professor Fionn Dunne (HexMat Principal Investigator) and Professor Tony Wilson (Master of WCSIM, and University of Oxford). Prizes for the most innovative design and farthest flying plane were gratefully received by the winning teams.



The circuits workshop (led by Vivian Tong, Imperial PhD student), introduced the children to 'Circuit Theory and Renewables'. Games to demonstrate how circuits work helped the children to understand key concepts effectively. Students were then tasked with building their own circuits from scratch. The idea of kinetic energy, wind energy and generators were also taught in this session. In particular, generators were shown to be able to convert kinetic energy from a wind turbine into electrical energy, which could be used to light an LED or lift a weight.



Dr Suze Kundu’s (Teaching Fellow, Imperial College) closing activity called ‘What is a Scientist/Engineer’ aimed at dispelling any misconceptions about who can be a scientist/engineer and greatly inspired the children.

The success of the day was reflected by excited children leaving Glaziers Hall having enjoyed their day and learning more about not only aspects of science and engineering, but also inspiring them to become the scientists and engineers of the future.

Set For Britain


Vivian Tong,  3rd year HexMat PhD student supervised by Dr Ben Britton, was given the opportunity to present her work at the SET for Britain event in the House of Commons, on 7th March 2016. The poster presented was on the importance of understanding the interaction of stress and microstructure in zirconium alloys for nuclear reactors.

Imperial Festival


Imperial HexMat team take part in the Imperial Festival 2015

Following the success of the school workshops designed and delivered by Imperial College HexMat students, the HexMat team took part in the Imperial Festival in May 2015 at Imperial College, South Kensington campus.

This was a fun-packed day, involving primary school children from schools in the local area dropping in and participating in workshops previously run at Penwortham Primary School and WCSIM (Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers).

Vivian Tong (HexMat PhD student) led the Renewable Energy workshop and Abigail Ackerman (HexMat PhD student) led the Aeroplanes workshop.

Imperial Festival

Imperial Festival

Imperial Festival