A Canadian in Cardiff

By Parker McLean

All About Parker!

Over the Past month and a half, I have been lucky to be an intern at science made simple right here in Cardiff. Back in Canada, I spend my days studying in the Science Communication graduate program at Laurentian University.

With a passion for physics and entertaining others it seems my future lies in the presentation of the amazing wonders of our physical world. I have a particular love of performing and evaluating science demonstration shows and so here at science made simple, I have been right at home!

A Welsh Welcome (croeso!)

13169963_10156912132435323_80658656_oWhen I arrived, I met the wacky yet welcoming gang that is the office staff, ushered in by Rhys’s otamatone solo. There is an in-house chilli expert here at SMS, and I became convinced that to understand the science behind chillies, I needed some first hand experience. I was crazy enough to accept Dan’s offer to eat one of the hottest chillies on earth (a ghost pepper), not long before drinking an entire litre of milk.

It just so happened that my first week here ended with my birthday! I came into work to a pile of amazing birthday Welsh Cakes, chilli sauces, chocolate milk and home baked cupcakes waiting for me! After work many of us decided to walk on over to the horror tour of Cardiff Castle.

My First School Visits

13332972_10153462183081822_6374300294828241196_nBecca and I were able to shadow Emma at her space made simple 3D show, the Tim Peake Mission X presentation and a workshop called Down To Earth! I must say, I have never seen such roaring excitement over space science before this show. During the 3D space shows, students were catching and dodging incoming asteroids, shouting answers to maths problems and letting out collective shouts of excitement while passing over the moons of Saturn.

We then went into a classroom where we watched Emma show the class what they need to know to be the next Tim Peake. I was then able to step in and get messy in the Down To Earth workshop. Thinking through problems with the students, we made volcanoes to model Olympus Mons (the largest volcano in our solar system!). We then solved puzzles and stacked blocks using gear that astronauts have to use to get their work done in space.

Becca and I just couldn’t get enough of Emma’s amazing workshops, so we joined her another day at a whole new workshop about rockets! Here, we worked with the students to make our own personalised rockets and joined the students in line outside to launch them thirty meters in the air!

Seeing the level of excitement in the kids, I wanted to get myself presenting as soon as possible. But first I needed to shadow more of science made simple’s amazing presenters before I was ready to perform.

A Part of The Team

I have conveniently come right in time for a tradition I had never heard of before my arrival, Eurovision. I joined Wendy, Dan and David on the fun at an amazing Eurovision party with games from dreamjackpot.com food and cheering for some of the more outlandish performances. Seeing Australia joining in on the fun, I think Canada should make their way into this competition so that I may bring this tradition back with me.

Being a new member of the team, I joined in on many science made simple excursions. I was able to join the wonderful Zoë to shadow her Bubble and Balloons show, where students get literally immersed in bubbles!

parker and potatoI knew very little about engaging visitors at festivals and so I jumped on the chance attended a workshop from Debbie and Gaz to dip my toe in the art of science busking. I was able to use these newly learned skills at Science at The Assembly while working at the science made simple booth. Those skills I picked up were used again when I was able to help out at the booth at The Cheltenham Science Festival with space made simple. Here, I boasted our rotating potato asteroid model and snuck away every so often to enjoy the other attractions at the festival.

Wanting to get some more tips from the SMS greats, I shadowed yet another show. This time it was the ‘Who wants to be a Superhero?’ show presented by the one and only Rhys. His show got kids thinking about engineering and demonstrated that a lot of scientists use the ‘superpowers’ that popular superheroes have. As we know great power comes with great responsibility and Rhys showed us that scientists and engineers use these powers to help us make our lives easier and help us know more about our world.

Back in Canada, my research is focused on finding a way to evaluate a science show. I’m trying to find out what might be the best way to see how audiences respond to shows. It seems science made simple has this same question! We worked together and I tested out an evaluation program that they have been thinking of using called Plickers. It was really easy and quick to use with a smartphone; a method I’ll have to bring back to Canada with me.

Writing science blogs can be incredibly challenging, a skill I would certainly like to improve on. With the release of X-Men Apocalypse, I knew I could practice my writing skills by writing about my favourite character, Magneto. Getting amazing feedback from the SMS team on my writing I was able to release a blog that focuses on how we may gain Magneto’s powers! You can read it here!

Rhys and I had the amazing idea to make a video for the science made simple website on a wicked phenomenon we have both seen before. With a little bit of practice, I was able to present this in the slinky drop video at a stunning scale.


A month into my internship, the time was right, and I felt more ready than ever to start learning a part of a show to present to students in a school. I practised a segment of the ‘It’s Only Water. . . or is it?’ show and joined Becca in presenting the show to an assembly of students at a local school. This was my first experience presenting in front of a large assembly of students, and certainly won’t be my last! The energy of the school audience brings such an excitement to the job of presenting science that it becomes harder for me to call it work.


Canadian Abroad

13323468_10153462144276822_6573725196448961324_oThis being my first time in the UK, I needed to see everything I could. I was first taken by Zoe and Rhys to Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, on a long hike to the highest point in South Wales.  Aside from the amazing view, I was stunned by the population of free roaming sheep! Amazed, I couldn’t help but run merrily with the sheep through the open fields.

Throughout my stay, I’ve managed to make my way to Bath, Bristol and London. I’ve roamed Britain to see the ancient Roman ruins, the foreign architecture and because of my nerdy nature, science centres! I was able to visit At-Bristol and Techniquest, getting lost in the exhibits and science shows highlighted in each. At Techniquest, I was able to talk to an exhibit designer and show director to see how they make their educational experiences entertaining for visitors (including myself) coming from all over the World.

So long and thanks for all the science…!

IMG_5315 [958057]  Draft 2Being able to learn from other people who share the desire to entertain and teach others, I now find myself a much more effective and diverse communicator. I have learned how to present in a completely new style to a completely different audience and had my science writing skills improved with the immense help of the SMS team.

Inspired by conversations with other science communicators, I have been constantly reminded that I am doing what I love. With everything I had the opportunity to do while I was here, the line between work and play was always blurred. I know whatever I may go onwards with in Canada, I will have science made simple always in mind for keeping me inspired to entertain others with the many wonders of science.


science made simple offers Who wants to be a Superhero?’, a Key Stage 2 show that takes a look at how scientists and engineers are making superhero powers a reality!

If you are a primary school in Wales and would like us to visit your school, then click here as you may be able to book the show for a reduced price.


sms group shot with props smallWe are science made simple, a social enterprise who perform science, maths and engineering shows to schools, festivals and public audiences.

You can find out more about what we do, check out our exciting range of shows, or sign up to our newsletter to keep updated on what we are up to!


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Posted in Engineering, Primary, Science Communication, Space
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