17 September 2020

Over the summer holiday, ASP was asked to help provide activities for a programme of regular online workshops for young people supported by Autism Family Support Oxfordshire (AFSO).

Impressed by the remote activities developed by ASP staff and Science Ambassadors during school closures, the AFSO staff and the young people they support selected workshop topics and ASP delivered three of these during July and August.

The most popular by far, with 19 participants, was the virtual tour of CERN and the ATLAS detector in the Minecraft ATLAScraft world. Tour guides were Dr Sam Henry, particle detector physicist at the University of Oxford, and Senior Science Ambassador, Freddie Nicholson, who was a member of the original ATLAScraft development team from four schools, Abingdon, Fitzharrys, Didcot Girls and Portsmouth Grammar. Dr Henry was able to show participants a comparison of the ATLAScraft version of CERN with his own photographs from the real site, demonstrating how realistic the developers had managed to make the Minecraft model.

Freddie gave a quick lesson on how to access and tour the interactive activities embedded within the model and also explained some of the updates he has made since the original was created a few years ago. He has also modified the Minecraft characters by adding special CERN branded hats to the figures. As a result of this workshop Freddie was inspired to re-assemble the original development team of students and scientists for a very special new project which will be revealed later this year. This has the support of Stephanie Hills, former pupil of St Helen and St Katharine’s and now European Communications Director for the Science and Technology Facilities Council at CERN.

It was great to be able to work with AFSO and to inspire their young people with some science activities even though these had to be remotely delivered. We hope that this is yet another new partnership that will continue and that will develop further once visitors can be invited back into the ASP lab.

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