I’m a Moderator, Get Me Out of Here!

23 Mar

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been helping out with I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here – a science engagement project that takes place via the magical medium of the internet.

The two-week event sees scientists being grilled by hundreds of schoolchildren around the country. The students are assigned to a zone (e.g. “Space Zone”, “Quantum Zone”, “Energy Zone”) in which they can send questions to five scientists, as well as taking part in live chats. During the second week, one scientist is voted off each day, and each zone’s winner receives 500 shiny pounds to spend on a science engagement project of their choice.

My job as moderator was to help manage the questions and make sure the live chats ran smoothly (at least, as smoothly as you’d expect when a class full of hyperactive schoolkids is let loose on the internet). For this event, there were eight zones, plus another six zones in a sister project running for the first time (I’m An Engineer…). This meant A LOT of questions and live chats. In fact, working on the questions was sometimes like painting the Forth Bridge – you’d put a batch through only for the students to send through 50 more.

But the sheer brilliance of the questions prevented this from ever getting boring. There were questions about flying pigs, questions about ethics, questions about juggling, questions about Super Mario, and lots of questions about bodily fluids. There were questions about whether or not the world is going to end (general verdict: probably not anytime soon), and questions about whether or not aliens exist (general verdict: possibly, but the universe is so big that we might never meet them).

And there were also some brilliantly unique questions that only kids could come up with – the sorts of questions that are simple and profound at the same time. Here are some of my favourites from the past two weeks (click on the images to read the scientists’ answers):

Is there a gene for liking or disliking marmite?

Where does time go?

Is it true you can die from a broken heart?

If a turtle loses his shell is he homeless or naked?

For more great questions, read this lovely blog post by Adam Stevens, winning scientist in the Space Zone and one half of the legendary Team Tash.

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