AUC’s Fun Lab: Science Outreach, Hands-on Learning
“Discover the science you have never seen before” is the slogan for AUC’s Fun Lab, a physics laboratory that engages students in hands-on demonstrations and experiments that spark an interest in studying science. Last year alone, the Fun Lab reached out to more than 7,000 students in public and international schools in Egypt.
“At AUC, we believe that raising scientific awareness is a way to establish a knowledge-based society and bring about economic change,” said Ehab Abdel Rahman, vice provost and physics professor. “Scientific communication and engagement through informal education is the key to raising such awareness. The Fun lab is an open space activity where all ages can be educated about science. It’s a mobile facility that distributes knowledge all around.”
Wonders of Science, Spinatory and Science Camp
The Wonders of Science Show is one of several scientific presentations that are demonstrated by the Fun Lab and carried out by AUC faculty and staff members. “The Wonders of Science Show is an innovative way to mix science with fun and raise the students’ sense of curiosity to understand the experiments,” explained Mohamed Dawood, science communication specialist in the Department of Physics who is pursuing a master’s in nanotechnology from AUC.
At the show, students participate in hands-on games and experiments that include laws of motion, pressure, sound, light, electricity and magnetism. “It’s important that students learn how to think critically and question the information they learn,” said Dawood.
For Rania Abdallah, an instructor at Al Andalus International School, the experimental show has had a positive impact on her students. “I enjoy witnessing how my students share their experiences with each other,” she said. “As a teacher, you have a role to expand your students’ knowledge and widen their horizons, allowing them to explore new avenues for creativity. I can’t help but feel fulfilled about my job.”
Another scientific activity is the Planetarium Show, a portable facility that explores the mysterious beauty of the night sky. Students get the opportunity to watch scientific movies about astronomy, biology and cosmos. In addition, students learn topics about space travel, universe exploration, colonization of the moon and the history of telescopes. “The experience is like taking a live tour from Earth,” said Dawood. “Students can pick out visible planets, stars, galaxies and the moon.”
Working to change the misconception that science is difficult, the Department of Physics also established a spinning laboratory located in the School of Sciences and Engineering. “Through the Spinatory’s interactive and experimental tools, anyone can practice science and experiment how fun it can be,” said Dawood. “This will lead to new perceptions about science.”
Besides demonstrating science experiments in schools, the School of Sciences of Engineering hosts a Science Summer Camp at AUC New Cairo. The five-day event includes activities about all fields of science including, physics, chemistry, engineering, biology and architecture.
Science Museum, Expanding Outreach
For Abdel Rahman, the ultimate goal is to develop a science museum in Egypt that resembles the Exploratorium museum located in San Francisco, California. “Although the Fun Lab is a small model of a science museum, I think we should develop an educational institution that covers all areas of science and technology,” Abdel Rahman stated. “Teachers and the general public are very interested in what we do because we integrate new teaching pedagogies.”
For now, the plan is to expand the Fun Lab shows to accommodate more students and introduce advanced scientific experiments. The Fun Lab’s most recent collaboration is with the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT). “Since we want to accommodate more students in the country, we collaborated with ASRT to train their science communicators on the experiments we demonstrate,” he said. “I’m hoping that other universities in Egypt use AUC as an example to engage in more science outreach for students. I think it’s critical to expose children to all kinds of knowledge.”