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Award-winning chemist takes bizarre experiments abroad

An award-winning scientist from University of East Anglia (UEA) is continuing his work to inspire disadvantaged children from across the globe, by taking his ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ science show to South Africa next month.

Dr Stephen Ashworth, a Reader in Chemistry at UEA will take his dramatic ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ science show to rural and township schools in South Africa, which uses everyday materials and simple equipment to demonstrate basic chemical principles.

The news comes after the academic was recognised by the Royal Society of Chemistry with an Inspirational Member Award for his ongoing work, which he picked up at a ceremony earlier this month.

He flies out to begin his outreach trip in August and will be visiting schools in the Durban area of KwaZulu-Natal province, and will also train staff at the Unizulu Science Centre in Richard’s Bay.

His aim is to increase interest in science, specifically chemistry, among secondary school children and encourage them to consider sciences courses in further and higher education.

‘Kitchen Chemistry’ was first developed in 2010 and is a series of demonstrations such as the ‘whoosh bottle’, so called because of the characteristic noise made by the flame. The ‘flaming custard’ demonstration is also included to illustrate the energy contained in a spoonful of cornflour. 

This trip is part of a number of outreach events which Dr Ashworth takes part in across the UK, and further afield countries such as in Malaysia, Mauritius and Mozambique.

Dr Ashworth, said: “There is something about a colour change, a burst of flame, or an excessively messy process that appeals to children, and adults too for that matter. It is unfortunate that we tend to remember the flash and not the reason for the flash.

“My aim is to inspire children but also help educators and science centre staff to teach practical chemistry confidently, enhancing their lessons. The areas that I’ll be visiting are generally resource poor rural and township schools so I’m hoping the low-cost experiments I’ll demonstrate will be valuable for them to use in the long-term.”

Dr Ashworth will be tweeting during his trip using the Twitter handle @Kitchen_Chem