Science Communication Conference 2011

Please read this for a summary of the case study presented at the British Science Association Science Commuincation Conference 2011.
These notes are available as a pdf document here.

Volunteering with CHaOS

British Science Association Science Communication Conference 2011

Presented by Lia Chappell (CHaOS President 2010-11) and David Bebb (CHaOS committee member)

Cambridge Hands-On Science (more fondly known as CHaOS) is a volunteer organisation based in
Cambridge that aims to bring fun, hands-on science experiments to children and families. CHaOS is
run entirely by student volunteers from the University of Cambridge, and expects to see over 7,000
people this year in schools and in public events. These events are run both in Cambridge itself,
where we see 2,000 people at our largest one-day event, and in areas as far apart as Devon and
Scotland during our month-long Summer Roadshow.

CHaOS began from an event in Cambridge Science week, organised by students who thought
science outreach events should be more interactive. They begged, borrowed and stole enough
equipment to open an event to the public, using space in the Dept of Zoology. The first science
week event “Crash, Bang, Squelch!”, took place in 1998, and we’ve continued to build on this
successful format. In 2002 the student volunteers decided to take the experiments on the road to
areas less accessible to science outreach; the first CHaOS Science Roadshow ran for one week. In
2011 the Summer Roadshow will be running for five weeks, visits schools, town halls, festivals and
even a scout camp. Each of these events has a similar format- same groups of children/ families
rotate freely around a range of experiments, each of which is explained by an enthusiastic student

We think that there are three elements to the CHaOS model that are key:

1) Hands-on experiments, which pack in boxes: these fun hands-on experiments pack easily into
boxes, allowing them to be set-up in a wide range of venues.

2) CHaOS website: provides information to the public, hosts our experiment explanations, and
helps us to manage our volunteers

3) Enthusiastic volunteers: we recruit students, who often have little experience of science
outreach. After giving them basic training they are almost always very successful at engaging with
members of the public. By repeating their explanation of a simple experiment to different groups
they can discover first hand what makes an engaging interaction!