Chocolate is not just for eating – it can be inspiring
6 June 2019
Working in finance, I spend most of my working week assisting with grant applications and monitoring spend, but every now and then, it’s nice to be able to do something different. I recently got the opportunity help out with Cheney School’s Science Festival, designed to show children the fun side of science as well as the more practical uses - to get them thinking, and inspire them to study science at higher levels.
I set out for Cheney School in Headington, slightly apprehensive and trying very hard to remember anything from my last scientific foray (a Chemistry A-Level). I was given a brief, but very insightful, talk on Imaging and CT scans, to prepare myself for the afternoon ahead. Luckily, I was not alone – Jackie Parker, Martin Christlieb, and two very smart Oncology Students were on hand as well to answer the many questions that were asked, both by myself, and the children of Cheney.
To ensure that we stood out from the minor explosions of the Earth Sciences, and the elaborate costumes of Mathematics, we brought chocolate – and it worked. The 20 or so chocolates drew everyone who entered the room. Once successfully lured in, we challenged our visitors to match the real-life chocolate bars, to their CT scan counterparts. The key is to think about the different textures and components that made up the chocolate. Most of our visitors successfully matched up the Flake, with its signature wavy and flaky consistency, but some, like the Boost and the Double Decker, proved to be more challenging.
Despite a few half-hearted attempts to walk away with the chocolate, both adults and children were really engaged by the challenge. Once we had their attention and they’d solved the challenge, more pictures were brought out – this time, a CT scan of a computer mouse. These scans showed how improving imaging techniques could greatly improve radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients – as treatments can be focused, which leads to them being more efficient, with fewer side effects. Interested viewers were also shown how proton beam therapy compares to the current X-ray beams. We had some great questions, regarding cost and feasibility of the various treatments.
While for some children, this was the first they’d ever heard of imaging and radiotherapy, some already knew about it, and the uses for it. These children were particular engaged, asking pertinent questions (which had to be fielded to our resident scientists) about adding more beams to the treatment of the mouse, and how practical this was, as well as asking about how common this sort of treatment is when compared to the proton beam therapy (answer: very). It was great fun to be able to talk with everyone who came over to the table, and I felt we all left the table knowing more about imaging and Oncology than we did before.