Chemistry gets Physical, a summer school for visually impaired students.

25th- 30th June 2005

The Centre for Access and Communication studies (Claire Wickham), together with the School of Chemistry (Dr. Dudley Shallcross) and the Department of Physics (Dr. Vince Smith) at the University of Bristol have just completed a summer school in Chemistry and Physics for visually impaired students. The students ranged in age from their late 20's to 80+, some have been blind from birth, some have become either partially sighted or blind at some point in their life.

The students come from all walks of life and travel to Bristol from throughout the UK as the University of Bristol is the only place to offer such a course in science to this group. Throughout the course each student was accompanied by a volunteer sighted guide who acted as portable mobility aids, readers and general enablers.

The course began with a day and a half of practicals, where students experimented with cocoa butter, cocoa powder and icing sugar, to make a chocolate combination that would melt in the mouth and not in the hand, they also made a range of slimy and bouncy materials and finally investigated some electrochemistry, including electroplating. For the rest of the course (a further three and a half days) the students were given talks on the structure of the atom, how atoms bond with each other and how our ideas about bonding lead to an understanding of materials such as diamond and graphite, liquid crystals, superconductors and the compounds that make the Earth's crust. In addition, lectures on perfumes and scents, how to make perfect ice cream, the Physics of sex and the life of Einstein rounded off the course. The students also toured the Cadbury's Factory at Keynsham and the Cotswold Perfumery at Bourton-on-the-Water during the week.

"The standard of lecturing was of the highest quality", said one student.

"Things I had never understood at O'level have finally made sense", said another.

Overall the feedback from the students was uniformly excellent. The summer school is sponsored by the European Social Fund, with additional contributions from Bristol ChemLabS, a HEFCE Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Chemistry.