Manchester is the 2016 European City of Science, which recognises our unique scientific heritage and our vital contribution to discovery, invention and industry. The UK's second city has produced a wealth of innovations - it is the place where the industrial revolution began, the atom was split and the programmable computer was created. An impressive 25 Nobel Laureates have originated here, and the city continues to drive scientific progression today in advanced materials, biotechnology, energy and many other areas.
The City of Science title gives us a unique opportunity to showcase groundbreaking science and cutting-edge industry to people across the city - and, crucially, for them to be inspired and get involved. Together with partners across the City, The University of Manchester is developing an inspiring and extensive programme of public engagement events and activities, which is constantly being updated and expanded. With numerous projects and hundreds of co-creators, we have a lot of stories to tell.
A major contribution to the City of Science programme is our #scienceX Extravaganza. We are taking scientists, engineers and experiments to intu Trafford Centre, one of Europe's largest shopping and leisure complexes and the Chill Factore, the UK's longest indoor ski slope. These are ideal places for us to meet people who would never usually visit our campus and facilities, to excite them about science and engineering, and get them involved in experiments and other activities - especially as it is sheltered from the notoriously unpredictable Manchester weather!
Through a wide range of interesting and engaging activities across the Centre, including Legoland and SEA LIFE, we hope to show that science and technology grow our understanding of the world we live in, and can solve some of the big problems we currently face - from how to power our lives, to how to feed the world's ever-expanding population. We are also aware that universities can appear to be daunting places, and science and engineering may seem like intimidating subjects - we hope to dispel these myths at #scienceX by showing that there is a budding scientist or engineer in everyone.
Amongst other things, shoppers will get the chance to hold a piece of the moon, programme and interact with a robot, have a go at landing a plane in a flight simulator and experience virtual reality. Through these engaging and immersive activities, staff and students from the University hope to demonstrate that science and engineering are all topics which are hugely relevant to modern life and stimulating and interesting to study.
Through raising the profile of these subjects, and making people aware of other citizen science events taking place this year as part of the European City of Science, we ultimately aim to encourage young people and their families that a scientific or engineering career is possible for anyone, and can be extremely rewarding.
Industry - specifically manufacturing and technology businesses - and the UK Government are aware that we are not providing enough people with the relevant skills, and a recent report suggested that the UK needs to double the number of annual recruits into engineering to meet expected demand over the next few years. Dated perceptions of what studying a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subject entails can put young people off, and as a result, UK students going into higher education to study in these areas have been falling short of industry demands for years. Universities play a crucial part in ensuring that more people gain skills in these areas, and that we have citizens who value them. The government wants to create a culture where people feel science, engineering and technology are relevant to them - this is what we hope to achieve through #scienceX.
There are many common misconceptions about studying at University - and particularly the STEM subjects - which can deter young people with no experience of academia. Higher education brings significant benefits to individuals, society and the economy, and a diverse student body fosters a vibrant intellectual, social and cultural environment. The University of Manchester is committed to attracting and supporting the very best students, regardless of their financial circumstances - and funding assistance is available for many science and engineering subjects. We are proud to have the highest overall number of students from under-represented backgrounds of all Russell Group research-intensive universities.
Through our outreach work, we hope to demonstrate that scientists and engineers can come from all backgrounds, they don't spend all of their time in a lab, and the things they study can be hugely interesting and exciting.
#scienceX takes place at intu Trafford Centre and Chill Factore on April 23-24. For more information, visit www.manchester.ac.uk/sciencex