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Brook Academy Ambassadors Round Out the Year by Getting Hands-On

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

By Craig Smith

We proudly run an ambassador’s programme at PEARL that provides local secondary school students from Brook Sixth Form with the opportunity to gain unique experience and skills working hands-on in our world class facility. The scheme is run by the Community Partnerships and Engagement team, led by Helen King, though in true PEARL style the delivery of the various workshops and projects that make up the programme are delivered collaboratively across the whole PEARL family. The central focus of the programme is to foster a symbiotic relationship between PEARL and the wider community, sharing knowledge, resources, and opportunities. As we finish up the end of the second year running the programme, we’re extremely pleased to have been able to expand our intake and offering to the students.

To close out this year’s programme, our Year 12 student ambassadors from neighbouring Brook Sixth Form joined us on-site for a four-day workshop. The group were introduced to a study led by Sarah Tofiq, one of our PhD researchers, exploring perceptions of green spaces and metal wellbeing of teenagers in Barking and Dagenham. It is widely considered that the age group our ambassadors represent are often left out of the planning of green spaces and so their task was to consider what would make an ideal space for them. After completing an initial stage sketching out ideas individually, the group came together to share and work through their ideas as a team before bringing their design to life.

The ambassadors set to work under the expert guidance of our Making and Production Team, utilising the unique capabilities and specialist equipment on offer. PEARL was conceptualised and designed to be a building to house the world, and to this end we are able to manipulate all aspects of the environment inside our space. The ambassadors considered how they could work with sound and light, as well as an array of measurement instrumentation, video projection, and our 3D printing capabilities, to create something that truly represented their idea of a meaningful green space.

The ambassadors processing their sound and video recordings under the supervision of Steve from the Making & Production Team

By the end of the workshop the team had created a 3D immersive environment using 360° sound and visuals they captured themselves at the nearby nature reserve under the guidance of Ralph (Specialist Lead for Lighting and Video) and Beky (Lead Technician).

Back in the lab the rest of the Making & Production Team came together to help the ambassadors to create the green space they envisioned, sharing their specialist knowledge and equipment in areas like 360° sound recording and lighting. Technician Shane described the process saying “I really enjoyed it. They were keen and asked loads of questions. They were really into it, so it felt more like a collaboration than teaching.” The resulting one-of-a-kind immersive park design the Year 12’s created taught us so much about where change needs to be made in the local community whilst also imparting specialist knowledge and a unique experience to them. The hands-on workshop with the Year 12 ambassadors is just one element of the wider programme that aims to empower young people to change the world and gain valuable experience with various ways this can be achieved.

Meanwhile, working primarily the Community Team, our Year 10’s rounded up their first year on the programme by putting their newly acquired knowledge of PEARL into action, giving guided tours of the building.

The ambassadors Showing Senior Researcher Sara around with David from the Community Team

The ambassadors have been able to benefit from our guidance, specialist skills and capabilities to help them grow both intellectually and professionally. Despite the programme running for just two years now, we’re already seeing a growing number of positive feedback and success stories. As Leo from our Year 12 group explains “during my time here I have developed both my soft and hard skills, learning how to communicate in an appropriate and professional manner, and how to use world class equipment, which I couldn't do anywhere else.” Brook Sixth Form Headteacher Kim Donovan, an invaluable champion and partner on the ambassador programme added “our students have joined UCL PEARL as Student Ambassadors for two consecutive years now. This incredibly unique opportunity, for Year 10, Year 12 and Year 13 students to engage with post-graduates, within the exceptional facilities of UCL PEARL, has further developed the students’ academic and interpersonal skills. The students have found the role inspiring and engaging, and it has motivated them to be ambitious in the next step of their career.” In fact, Fane, one of last year’s ambassadors from Brook Sixth Form studied an Engineering BTEC and has now gone on to continue his academic journey in Civil Engineering at UCL, making him the first from the school to receive an offer from our university. This is an immensely positive outcome for him personally, as well as all of us that are proud of his success.

This year has marked an important milestone, demonstrating the positive impact providing opportunities to the local community can have. As Helen explains, ‘I’m incredibly proud of our ambassadors and how much their confidence has grown during their time here. By Year 13, we are able to further tailor their experience to them as individuals, allowing them to become part of a real research team investigating something that suits their interests, skills and career aspirations. A big part of this programme is empowering them to pursue something that will be both challenging and personally fulfilling when they leave school. We can't wait to see what they do next!’

Working with our local community in Barking & Dagenham is very important to us. Changing the world requires the input from everyone, from all walks of life, different disciplines, and lived experiences. Our ambassador programme aims to bring diversity and often unheard voices to the key issues facing our world, shaping a future that benefits all of us.

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