Impact Study: Gorbal Community Event


STEM Ambassador, Dr Saeeda Bhatti has been a STEM Ambassador for 2 years but been involved in science communication for many years and is passionate about taking science out to her local community. Saeeda is an honourary lecturer in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing at the University of Glasgow and has implemented of a series of innovative and ambitious public engagement and science communication events in conjunction with local primary schools in the Gorbals, promoting STEM engagement in areas with traditionally low participation. In December 2017, Saeeda won the University of Glasgow Knowledge and Exchange Award for best Community Public Engagement Initiative as a result of her recent work in this area.

The Gorbals project first kicked off after Saeeda received a “New Year New Idea” leaflet in January 2017 from “The Spirit of the Gorbals”. This is part of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games legacy programme which invests in activity that local people believe will make a different to well-being and happiness within their community.  A community panel involving local residents oversees the distribution of the Spirit of the Gorbals resource budget informed by the ideas and aspirations of community groups and local people in the Gorbals.

The leaflet inspired Saeeda to propose a science event for the local primary schools.  She first worked with St Francis Primary school and organised a mini science fair for the school’s science week and, working alongside the school, she invited groups from NHS-GGC and University of Glasgow who to tie in with the school’s science curriculum. 

The children from the school then entered science writing and drawing competition and Saeeda compiled the winning entries into a magazine, “Adventures in Science”  and got it published using the funding she had received  from the Gorbals group. She then went on to work with the other primary school in the area, Blackfriars Primary School and enabled both schools to attend Explorathon 2017 at the Glasgow Science Centre in Sept 2017. St Francis Primary School showcased their magazine and Blackfriars Primary School did podcasts with researchers and visitors at the event.

Following on from this success, at a community feedback meeting, Saeeda was asked if something could be organised which included the wider community.  Saeeda took the approach of organising a themed event focusing on Cardiovascular and Hypertension, diseases known to of high concern in Scotland.

There had not been any events taking place in Gorbals on this level before - there is a coding club at one of the primary schools and both schools make use of the STEM Ambassadors but there had not been any engagement to this level, where the whole community would be involved. Saeeda planned the event to take place on Wednesday 14th March 2018 and link in with British Science Week.

The STEM community event took place with the support of the community coordinator, Michael Fullerton from New Gorbals Housing Association and Saeeda invited groups from the University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, NHS-GGC, Thriving Places and Glasgow Life to participate, with local community groups providing the catering.  There were over 60 volunteers involved and 300+ local residents attended.  The main event, the science fair lasted 4 hours but the legacy continues with medical students / community groups doing continuing to do workshops In the community and the school children enter the science writing competition each year.

Impact on Young People and their parents/carers

Saeeda reports that, 2 months after the event, people in the community are still talking about it, which definitely feels like “mission accomplished” to her! Children now say “hello” to Saeeda when they meet her in the area and tell her they’re entering the next competition and describe how much they enjoyed the event.

Children were asked what the impact on the day was for them. Replies included:

"I learned about CPR and what you need to do when you see someone faint."
"How hard it is for the heart to pump blood." 
"I learned about how smoking damages your body and about calories and making the right food choices.  Scientists can fix mistakes in DNA patterns"
"Heart facts, gravity and nanotechnology"
"Dr Who told me the right medicine should be given for the right problem"
"Science can be fun and important.  There are different kinds of science"
"In the future I am going to fix DNA to cure diseases"
"I could use this learning if I wanted to be a biomedical scientist and I could use information about blood pressure if I wanted to specialise in diabetes or be a paramedic"


Parents, carers and grandparents were asked what the impact on the day was for them, replies included:

"Encourage my daughter to do more science"
"Encourage my grandchildren to study more sciences"
"Take a first aid course"
"Keep healthy, assist person"
"Healthy Eating"
"Join a walking group"
"Encourage STEM subjects / interests more"
"Keep up to date with other STEM events"
"Look more into my diet"
"Read labels for salt and sugar

Feedback from the event showed that participants found the STEM Activities on offer at the Science Community event to be worthwhile:

STEM activities








Neither agree nor disagree

I enjoyed working with my child on the STEM activities.






The organisation and information shared was appropriate for me






I now have a better understanding of how important STEM subjects are to my child’s learning.







Many positive comments were given on the Heartstart Workshop:

"I learnt which heart beat is normal and which is not"
"Really informative"
"It was very interesting and good for the kids to learn"
"Very useful did not realise noodles have more salt"
"I think it is so good for everyone knows about their heart"
"Heart rate is good, need to monitor my hypertension"

Impact on STEM Ambassadors

The majority of workshops were delivered by UoG medical students, some of whom are STEM Ambassadors and others were then encouraged to become STEM Ambassadors after the event. Some were so enthused in the event they took the initiative and sourced more equipment / activities to take into their workshops and make them bigger and better. 

University of Glasgow MSc Medical Genetics students volunteered as the “ASK ME” Staff and they were very positive, helping children with their stands, directing them. 

Dr Jana Anderson, IHW, commented that she had never seen so many parents and children actively asking questions.  She mentioned that the event  was different from Explorathon or “Science Centre Meet the Expert” events where she had previously helped, as there was more time available to spend with children and go at their pace.

STEM Ambassador, Maria Boumpouli, participated at activity ‘’Follow your blood’’. She said “Participating in the event ‘STEM in the Gorbals’ was a fascinating experience. Everyone present was very friendly and helpful. What I enjoyed the most was the interest and enthusiasm of the children for the science activities. Interacting with them and receiving their positive feedback is irreplaceable. I feel very fortunate for having attended this event and I would definitely take part in similar activities in the future. “

Norah, 1st Year Medical Student said “What I found most interesting was the children’s questions.  They were willing to ask a lot of different questions, some of which I found very difficult to explain without using other scientific words.  However, they were prepared to engage with me once I gave them simplistic examples of the technical terms.  For example, to explain phenotypes, I would compare hair and eye colours and explain that this is a result of their genotypes.  This would often lead them to ask me about the meaning of other technical words, which again at times I struggled with; but I found a way!  This essentially made me think of my future as a medical doctor and how important it is to use language and easy to use terms with people without losing the meaning of a scientific / medical concept.”

Roddy and Kay 2nd Year Medical Students said “One take home point is that the desire to move to STEM careers is there, but children just need some extra support and encouragement from family and carers, as well as in school. We both agree that something we can take away from the event is the skill of explaining and communicating with children, where everything has to be explained simply and clearly.”

Scott, a 3rd Year Medical Student said “The older pupils had many interesting questions, usually beginning with ‘why’. This made me reflect on my own learning. In primary and high school I was always the kid asking ‘why’. I would not be satisfied until I fully understood each concept. However, as a medical student, I feel that I fail to do this. I tend to accept and learn new ideas instead of first questioning them. I feel that questioning new ideas is the best way to further my knowledge and learn concepts more thoroughly. Thus, moving forward, I hope to regain my ’11 year old curiosity’ and begin to ask ‘why’ again more often.”

Impact on the community

Lots of families attended which emphasised the importance of community.  It was so busy that researchers ran out of resources for their activities! Feedback from the event included:

  • We should have one every year
  • Can you have something about space?
  • Science fair is very good to gain knowledge
  • I found it really interesting because I like science and I also enjoyed getting involved in all of the workshops, especially CPR and genes. 
  • The students were so friendly and knew what they were talking about.  The students could answer all my questions.  It really helped me to learn more about our health
  • The science fair was fun and amazing and I would like to go back
  • Any others would be great, as a parent we gained information which is good for our daily life

Lessons, advice or good practice that can be shared with others undertaking similar activities

Saeeda has a “go with the flow” attitude.  Things went wrong, as they always do when running an event on this scale but Saeeda just looked for ways to fix them. She says “Persistence, whilst tiring, is key. There were things happening out with my control people for e.g. people cancelling (3 groups – I nearly cried), wrong booking date of hall - I nearly cried again had to adapt multiple times. People are important and giving everyone time no matter what is so important.  To promote the event and explain what STEM meant (STEM isn’t a common word amongst the general public)  I was distributing leaflets at local supermarket, pharmacies and the local fish and chip shop.  If I found myself sitting in a waiting room for e.g. health centre, community centre  I chatted to people about it.  People in Glasgow are generally chatty so that helps!!  Everyone I spoke to (except two teenage boys at the chippie) seemed genuinely interested and were asking questions.  Community members from school parent / teacher council were all involved in ensuring things went smoothly. “

For updates follow @GorbalsSTEM on twitter.

Thank you to STEM Ambassadors and Volunteers

We would like to give thanks to the many students and staff who contributed to this project:

Student Volunteers

University of Glasgow MSc student roles 

  • Welcoming and directing exhibitors / visitors
  • Station set up
  • Basic Life support workshop coordination
  • Evaluation Forms
  • Consent forms
  • Photography

Varisha Desai, Ioanna Allushab, Stanley Otoboh, Jonathan Smellie, Mohamed Derar, Aaron Chen, Rebecca Fenner, Alex Clarke, Yaiza Caceres Maretll, James Mulder, Andrew Pestaille, Beatriz Reis, Aamisha Kyada, Joice Kaluks, Tahni-Ann Wilson, Katherine Fryer, Danielle Patchell, Emma Rees, Emma Coats, Jing Yi


University of Glasgow Medical Students at stands
  * indicates those who delivered workshops

1st year: Norah Alhamed, Caoimhe Quinn*, Zaiba Khan

2nd year: Roddy Grant*, Kay McCubbin*, Shannon Cowie

3rd year: Scott Dickson*, Baryab Zara*, Fiona McKay*


Additional thanks to :

Medical School Society:

Heartstart – UoG Medical School.  This team was led by Leigh Milne 2nd year medical student and Danny Chu specialist paramedic NHS-GGC

Teddy Bear’s Hospital –UoG Medical School

Other medical students on stands: Li En-Tan, Ben Fourie, Salil Reetoo

University of Strathclyde Biomedical Engineering Students with Dr Asimina Kazakidi

Ms Ioanna Marina Syntoyka

Ms Maria Boumpouli

First published: 21 June 2018

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