Plastic Electronics Winter School 2017
In total, 37 students and 1 postdoc (from 4 from Queen Mary University of London, 3 from Oxford University and and 30 from Imperial College), 3 visiting researchers and 11 academics and one Programme Manager took part.
This year, the group project brief was to design and deliver a hands-on activity for school children to explain a scientific concept. The winning team – Phil Calado (Imperial College), Tianjun Liu (QMUL), Eli Rezasoltani (Imperial College) and Shengyang Chen (Imperial College), presented a game to explain how a solar cell works. Here’s Phil’s report on Winter School…
“Is it any good?”, I asked.
“Do you like nice food?”, beamed Davide.
“Do you like amazing skiing?”
“Then you’re going to love it!”
And so went my introduction to the annual CPE winter school. This year cohorts 5 and 7 were lucky enough to be invited back to Bergün, Switzerland for a week of scientific talks, group projects and recreational activities. The World Heritage train line running from Zurich to Bergün alone would be worth the journey. Winding its way through awesome alpine scenery, cutting through mountains and across frozen waterfalls; it made for an inspiring introduction to the week ahead. I was also encouraged to see that almost half of Cohort 7 travelled the full distance from London by rail this year, reducing the carbon impact of an individual trip by a factor of around 7.
Bergün itself is a cosy village encircled by dramatic peaks. It’s probably most famous for the 6 kilometre toboggan run that ranges all the way from the neighbouring village Preda. Alex Giovannitti (Cohort 7) smashed the Plastic Electronics highspeed record, achieving a scorching 47 km/h! A Winter School prerequisite is sledging the floodlit run at night with the silhouetted mountains all around for company. For those PhD students who just can’t take it anymore, there’s also the suicidal mountain run, where stopping is a complete impossibility. For the skiers and snowboarders, 45 minutes train ride away are two of the greatest ski resorts on the planet: Davos and St Moritz. Our first skiing day at Davos was a massive highlight for me personally and an experience I’ll never forget.
But of course it wasn’t all fun and games. The morning schedule was packed with lectures by invited academics. There were some fantastic and entertaining talks, focussing not only the established plastic electronics applications of organic solar cells, light emitting diodes and transistors but also discussing water splitting, novel sensors and biomimicry. Cohort 7 gave their Late Stage Assessment talks in the evenings and it was great to see the quality of both the research and presentations.
The group project this year was to devise an activity for school children to teach them something related to plastic electronics. It was a bit like The Apprentice except with intelligent and compassionate participants. As ever, the groups came up with some really innovative and creative ideas. This year we had a drawable battery, an escape room challenge (complete with excellent theatrics from Jason Rohr and Michael Sachs) and a giant mobile phone display composed of fluorescent solutions.
Our group devised a game called Electron Elves vs Hole Hobbits, in which the children physically represent particles and processes within a solar cell, which is marked out as a play area on the floor using masking tape. Our primary motivation was to see the invited academics jumping around, legs bound as Recombination Ogres, trying to tag out the Elves and Hobbits who were all hopping around like mad on one leg, trying to escape the cell. In this respect it was a great success, but we’re also hoping that the concept could also be used to teach children of different ages some device physics with tunable complexity. A link to the video and presentation should be available on the CPE website soon.
On behalf of the participants I would like to thank Steph Pendlebury, Lisa Cheung and Professor Ji-Seon Kim for organising the CPE Winter School 2017.