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Science Minister Greg Clarke tries some pedal power

UK: The success of the Cool Science stand at the recent Big Bang Young Scientists and Engineers Fair could provide a springboard for future promotions of refrigeration and air conditioning engineering as an attractive career path for young people.

Last month’s Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham attracted over 75,000 young scientists and engineers, teachers, parents and STEM professionals. The Big Bang is about careers and futures and highlighting the exciting possibilities that exist for young people with science, technology, engineering and maths backgrounds.

The 25m² Cool Science stand, created to promote refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps, was the brainchild of Chris Vallis of the AB Group. It had a prime location amongst the 170 stands at the Big Bang fair and proved to be extremely popular, attracting over 12,000 young people aged between 7 and 19 over the four days of the show.

The Cool Science stand also received significant press attention and VIP visitors. This included the Big Bang Fair official launch press shoot on the Cool Science stand, Associated Press, CBBC Newsround, TV’s Marty Jopson, and a visit from the science minister Greg Clarke.

The Cool Science team worked hard to make the exhibits relevant and educational as well as importantly being interactive and hands-on.

“Engaging young people in a practical way is the best way to open their minds to careers which they many not have considered before, such as the cooling industry,” said Chris Vallis

The areas of the stand included four members of the Mad Science team, with dry ice experiments, adding some theatre to draw interest from the passing visitors.

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Chris Vallis: “Hopefully after seeing what we have managed to achieve in 2015, industry support will grow to keep Cool Science moving forward”

The stand also featured two hand-built bicycle-powered refrigeration machines, dubbed BicyCool, the Refrigeration Cycle. Designed and built by Dr Ed Hammond of ECH Engineering, the machines enabled visitors to see that the harder you pedal the greater the cooling effect. The temperature was displayed on large LED displays above the rider, encouraging some friendly competition and at the same time demonstrating the vapour compression refrigeration system, it’s components, the energy input required and the cooling (and heating) effect.

Also popular was the hand-made Cool Science sign, spelt out by frosty pipework, this was a very tactile exhibit for young people to see and feel cooling in action. Stuart Blackman of AB Group, who was responsible for building it, was also in attendance.

Another big draw was the 2m video-wall linked to a high resolution thermal Imaging camera. The mobile camera proved to be an engaging way for visitors to view the cold and hot spots on the stand, and watch the interactive activities on the stand from parts of the BicyCool to stand visitors and their hands fresh from gripping the frozen Cool Science sign.

In addition there was an iPad wall running an interactive Cool Science quiz (also available on the Cool Science website).

Other parts of the stand had slideshows about Fantastic Fridges, a new website for young people from the IoR. Also slides explaining the new apprenticeship standard for RACHP engineers, launched by government the same week as the Big Bang Fair.

Also on show was World Skills UK RAC team to demonstrate the aspirational avenues available to be recognised worldwide for skills in this industry.

The Cool Science stand was staffed by over 20 keen young engineering volunteers from industry companies, who engaged with the visitors, encouraging them to ask questions and telling them how to find out more about the Cool Science behind our industry and the career routes available.

Industry support

The stand was made possible through support from the AB Group, Institute of Refrigeration, British Refrigeration Association, ECH Engineering, EBM Papst, Dean & Wood, Mitsubishi Electric, Danfoss, Harp, GEA Searle, Space Engineering and Carel UK.

“We hope to keep the momentum with Cool Science to continue this work,” commented Chris Vallis. “Hopefully after seeing what we have managed to achieve in 2015, industry support will grow to keep Cool Science moving forwards.”

And as recent press campaigns have made clear, there is a huge need for more engineers.

“The estimate is there are approximately 70,000 people working in the UK cooling industry, it’s a huge sector,” said Chris Vallis. “We suffer from the same symptoms as the whole engineering sector, where we have a skills gap, and I believe young people are who we need to be talking to plug that gap, encouraging them to continue studying STEM subjects and making them aware, they can become trained in this field. For example by taking up an apprenticeship under the new apprenticeship standard from 2017 in refrigeration and air conditioning now approved by government.”

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IoR president Graeme Maidment puts two young visitors through their paces on the BicyCool

President of the Institute of Refrigeration, Graeme Maidment, spent a day on the Cool Science stand and was impressed with what was achieved: “Cool Science was a fantastic success and it gave us as an industry the opportunity show large numbers of young people that we are a brilliant career choice.”

He also paid tribute to the backing that the Cool Science initiative received from members of the industry: “I would like to thank everyone who volunteered and supported the show, especially Chris Vallis and his team at AB Group who came up with the whole concept of Cool Science and made it happen. For me, Cool Science is so important, it highlights to young people the opportunity and challenges of a career in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps.”

Another visitor, Paul Alway of Marks and Spencer, commented: “Obviously as a business M&S do millions of pounds worth of trade selling refrigerated food, and as an industry we need to make sure that there are enough new engineers coming into it. Refrigeration is a fantastic industry to get into and a fascinating trade to be in. Cool Science is doing a brilliant to help maintain this talent pipeline for our industry’s future.”

The success of the initiative at the Big Bang Fair has provided a fantastic springboard for Cool Science to continue. During and since the fair, Cool Science has been approached to be involved in national science fairs and festivals, engineering schools programmes, national events for STEM education trusts, education charities and even to be part of the education platform for the SSC Bloodhound Education Programme.

With further support from the sector, Cool Science hopes to be back at the Big Bang Fair in 2016 and also participate in more events to continue to engage and inspire a younger and wider audience to join our important industry.

Further information at the Cool Science website.