Objects of Invention

In 2013, students from the University's Department of Engineering Sciences teamed up with the History of Science Museum in an exciting project focusing on public engagement, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering under its Ingenious programme for public engagement.

The project aimed to capitalise on the Museum’s remarkable collection of inventive objects, while enabling young engineers to gain practical experience in public engagement bringing their knowledge and enthusiasm to the Museum’s diverse audiences.

A total of 18 engineers, mainly graduate students, were involved in the project, including a group of biomedical engineers. After a series of training sessions in methods of public engagement and museum object handling supported by the Joint Museums’ Volunteers Service, the students devised activities for a family day in March as part of National Science and Engineering Week 2013, attracting over 2,000 visitors. This was followed by a schools’ event and two further whole-day events for schools in June involving 160 students from local secondary schools. Activities ranged from experimenting with gyroscopes and Stirling engines, to steam pumps and mobile medical devices.

Royal Academy of Engineering Logo



Two of the University’s young engineers show off old and new technology

What the student engineers said about their experience

The training course helped me better understand different learning styles and made me feel more confident when engaging with visitors

The fact than it was the History of Science Museum was an excellent opportunity to engage public with facts of both history (artefacts) and contemporary science (demonstrations)

The organisation of the family day was superb and the level of support by Museum staff in preparing activities was amazing and pushed us to engage visitors in a creative way

I have gained a lot of public speaking experience and talked to a wide range of audiences about something that relates to my work – educating children also made me feel confident in what I do

I really liked the sessions leading up to the events – it was a great chance to discuss methods of engaging; the fact that there were different types of events for families and schools was very exciting, because you could make changes to the depending on the audience

Project evaluation

Demonstrating a model Newcomen steam pump

Student engineer demonstrates model Newcomen steam pump

A full account and evaluation of the project is available as a PDF download.