Young Scientist Centre

The Young Scientist Centre - The University of Central Lancashire

Welcome to the Young Scientist Centre, a state-of-the-art lab used to deliver interactive workshops allowing young people to creatively explore science. Our engaging and practical workshops aim to inspire the scientists and engineers of the future.


Science at Home from the Young Scientist Centre

Hello to all you budding Science families out there! With the country currently socially distancing due to the Coronavirus pandemic the Young Scientist Centre is currently closed. This makes us sad because we are not able to carry on doing awesome Science activities with all our fabulous schools that come to visit us! So we thought that we would share some of our favourite resources and activities with you. These may be online videos of Scientists showing you experiments, or activities you could try at home.

Kids - if you want to have a go at something please make sure you ask an adult first. Adults - please check any safety information on websites before having a go!

Over on Twitter there is a huge community of Science Communication professionals who currently cannot do their normal amazing job of inspiring young people to think like scientists and explain how everything in the world works. One of our favourites is Dr Sarah Bearchell (if you have ever been to the Lancashire Science Festival, she is fondly known as 'the Cloud Lady'). She started the hashtag #ScienceFromHome after seeing that museum staff were tweeting about objects they love from their collections using the hashtag #MuseumFromHome.

It has now grown so much that by Friday 27th March (10 days after Sarah's original post) a Global Science Show was held on twitter with over 100 contributors from across the world tweeting their favourite experiments for over 9 hours! The event was co-ordinated by Sam Langford from the Glasgow Science Centre. The second show was on Friday 24th April, and another is planned for Friday 22nd May. Follow @GlobalSciShow for more details.

Some of the highlights of #ScienceFromHome so far have been:

  • Jemma Naumann (@SciJem) talking about the enzymes in our saliva. Jemma works at the L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre at the Royal Institution in London, our sister lab. 
  • Life Science Centre in Newcastle (@scienceatlife) showing how transpiration works in plants using flowers and dye


The Young Scientist Centre at UCLan is a partnership with the Royal Institution of Great Britain. It is an independent charity who's aim is to connect people with the world of Science. They have developed a series of videos that can be found on their website with simple experiments that can be carried out with household objects that should be easy to find.

The aim is to spark natural curiosity and get children asking questions about what is going on and how things work. The activities range from talking about optical illusions to making fake poo and rubber band cannons!

Have a go, explore how things work and why things happen, but most of all have fun!

Spring is the ideal time to have a go at growing your own plants from seed. It is amazing to think about a brand new plant growing from a small seed with just some water, warmth and a little TLC. You can usually buy seeds and compost from the supermarket when someone goes for your essentials shop.

There are some simple activities you can do to observe seeds germinating (starting to grow) and plants growing - you don’t even need a garden to do it! How about putting some seeds in a plastic bag with some damp kitchen roll to watch the shoots and roots grow. You could keep a record of the length of the shoots and roots each day. You can find the instructions for this investigation here on the SAPS (Science and Plants for Schools) website.

A classic at-home experiment is growing a bean plant in a jar. You can use broad bean or runner bean seeds which are both usually available at this time of year. The only other equipment you will need is some kitchen roll and an empty jar. There are some instructions here to help you here.

Maybe you could investigate what a seed needs to germinate by putting a jar in the light and one in the dark, or one in a warm place and one where the temperature is lower.

You can make a self-contained propagator to help your seeds germinate and protect young seedlings. A propagator is a piece of equipment which helps to keep your growing plants warm and stop too much water escaping from young tender plants. You can make one from a used drinks bottle. Find the instructions here.

You can grow lots of different types of plants in a propagator to give them a good start in their life. You could try sunflowers, tomatoes, chilli plants, or anything else you fancy!

If you do have a garden, you can plant your seedlings directly in to the soil or in larger pots when they grow bigger and the chilly nights haver passed. How about having a sunflower growing competition with other members of you household to see who's grows the tallest!

There are some great videos on YouTube to give you some inspiration about growing plants and other activities you can do in your outside space. Maddie Moate (presenter of Cbeebie's Do You Know?) and Greg Foote (Blue Peter's Science presenter)  have started a 'Let's Go Live' feature on Maddie's YouTube channel. They have a different theme each week and the first 5 episodes were devoted to topics involving the garden. They are packed full of interesting Science facts and activities you can try out for yourself!

Another source of activities linked to gardening is from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). They have lots of tips on how to grow different plants like sunflowers, 'poached egg' plants, tomatoes and pumpkins and ideas to try like pressing flowers, making animals out of vegetables and making a bee hotel.

If there are budding botanists in your family, Kew Gardens have released some of their learning resources for all to access during these times. There are activities stretching from KS1 all the way up to KS5. All you will need to take part in the activities are access to the online resources, paper and pencils. There are activities that look at the heroes and villains of the plant world, investigating plants that could help humans to live on Mars, and finding out a bout food security and sustainability.

If you have a go at growing some plants, or doing any of the activities mentioned, feel free to share any photos with us on Twitter (@YSCUCLan). Happy growing!

There is often a big emphasis on Maths in school as it is seen as an important tool for children as they grow up. Enthusiasm for the subject can often wain though, especially with preparation for tests and assessments. There are lots of mathematicians and organisations out there with the mission of trying to show that maths is not something hard/scary/irrelevant, but fun, exciting and around us everywhere in our lives!

A great starting point for finding out how maths is applied in the real world are the 2019 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. The series of 3 lectures, titled 'Secrets and Lies', was presented by Hannah Fry, who is an Associate Professor in the Mathematics at University College London. Her aim for the lectures was to show where maths is used using examples that are relevant to young people today. Her co-host for the lectures was Matt Parker, who is a stand-up comic and mathematician (more about him later!). Some of the topics covered include the maths involved in football, the idea of chance and luck, and how algorithms guide almost everything we do. You can watch the lectures on the Royal Institution website.

If you enjoy Matt Parker's witty take on all things maths then you can see more from him on his YouTube channel. Here he shares the maths behind common puzzles and challenges for you to try.

A fun way of introducing numbers to children is through music. They Might Be Giants, an American alternative rock band, released 'Here Come the 1,2,3s' in 2008. It is an album of songs aimed at young children to learn about numbers. You can listen to the tracks from the album here on YouTube.

Using shapes to make optical illusions is one way to apply maths in a fun way. Matt Pritchard, also known as the Science Magician, recently shared a 'trick' you can have a go at to make a disapearing cube. Have a look at his quick clip on YouTube then use his template to try and construct your own optical illusion.

A website that packed full of maths games and activities, pitched at all ages, is the NIRCH Project which is part of the Millennium Maths Project at the University of Cambridge. They have a page dedicated to activities and games that can be done at home without the support of a teacher. There are online interactive activities, such as 'Coded Hundred Square' where you have to construct the hundred square, written in code, with the puzzle pieces.

There are also activities that can be printed out, and used over time, such as 'One Big Triangle', where the aim is to make one big triangle out of the pieces so that the numbers touching add up to ten. It is worth taking some time to have a look around the site as there are so many cool maths puzzles to have a go at!

Lots of different organisations are currently running competitions that young people can take part in while at home. Bringing in the element of competition can really help motivate some children (and adults!) in to having a go at a new skill. Here are some of the opportunities out there from some of our favourite STEM organisations:

UK-RAS Network (Robotics and Autonomous Systems)

UK-RAS network are running two competitions for different age groups. "Draw a Robot" is open to children aged 5 to 7 years and asks for a new robot designed to do any job or task you can think of! There is also "Once Upon a Robot" for ages 7 to 11 years. For this they are asking children to write a short story featuring a robot that is created from your imagination and can be set anywhere - on Earth, in Space, or an entirely made up world.

Both competitions are open for entries until 8th June 2020

Big Ideas "The Great Exhibition at Home"

Taking on the spirit of Prince Albert's Great Exhibition in 1851 this competition is asking children to make a one minute video to tackle the question: "How can engineering help protect the planet?". There are resources to download from the website to help plan what to do and a set of challenges to follow.

The deadline for entries is July 2020.

The Special Species Competition - The Linnean Society

Have you got an idea for a new species with its own special characteristics? The Linnean Society is asking you to draw it, give it a name, and describe its unique habitat and adaptations to the conditions it faces. The competition is open to anyone of any age, with winners being picked on a rolling cycle in July, September, and December.

Royal Society of Biology Photography Competition

The theme of this year's competition is 'Our Changing World'. There are categories for over and under 18s. Have a look at the website for ideas on the theme, and to check out the prizes on offer.

Entries close on 24th July 2020.

The Great Bug Hunt 2020

Do you like exploring outside to find bugs and creepy crawlies? Once you have found some bugs

make it into a project – if you find a spider or woodlouse, find out all about it. Draw it, examine it (carefully!), what does it eat, where does it live – maybe even write a story or poem about it, design a poster, shoot a video. Follow the instructions on the website to submit your entry. The prizes will be awarded to the winning child's class once they are back at school. There are four age categories; ages 4-5, 5-7, 7-9 and 9-11.

Entries close on 12th June 2020.

If you decide to enter any of the competitions, good luck!

Back in March (before the country went into lockdown) we held the Young Scientist Centre’s annual Science Demonstration competition. Youngsters from primary schools in Preston and Burnley helped us to celebrate the centre’s fifth birthday by being guest judges. 

The Year Six children watched four science experiments by students and staff in our state-of-the-art lab on the Preston Campus. The video highlights of the morning gives a glimpse of how fun science can be and we’d like is to share with you more of the actual science behind what is seen in the video.

The first demo in the video was by Adam and Claire who were explaining the cool chemistry of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an invisible gas in the air around us, but it is much denser than air, so it sinks. We saw this in the demo when Adam ‘poured’ what looks like an empty bucket onto loads of lit candles and most of the flames went out. The denser carbon dioxide sank onto the flames and pushed away the oxygen putting out the flames. Adam also had a fish tank half filled with carbon dioxide and when he blew bubbles in to it they are seen to be floating!

Carbon dioxide gas can be squashed and cooled down (-78⁰C) and made into a solid (you may have heard of frozen carbon dioxide being called Dry ice). We do some great science with dry ice in the YSC, it is one our favourite chemicals! Dry ice ‘skips’ the liquid state of matter when its heated and goes straight back into a gas, scientists call this sublimation. By adding frozen carbon dioxide to warm soapy water, the carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside the soap bubbles and these oozes out over the top. In the video, you can see two of the class teachers trying to trap the gas to see who could make largest bubbles.

The second demo in the video was from Nkiru, showing why it is important to consider the soil in the ground before constructing buildings such as our homes and schools.  Nkiru, who is an engineer, demonstrates by using filtration how water flows much faster through sand than clay; clay particles trap and hold much more water than sand particles and anything built on top of a clay soil would wobble and maybe even fall. Engineers look very carefully at the ground before building and in many cases materials can be added to make the ground safe to build on.

Our third demo was all about States of Matter by Megan and Sophie, who are both Chemistry students. It got very messy when they showed us how slime and custard behave under pressure. Both gooey materials are liquids but when pressure is applied (squeezed, punched or stood upon) they suddenly behave as a solid until the pressure is taken away and they go back to being liquid again. The demo showed how the particles in custard and slime lock together and don’t move when pressure is applied but these particles can move and slide over each another when the pressure is eased or taken away. When Megan got into a tub of custard, it oozed all around her toes and she sunk to the bottom, however when she moved quickly she became stuck and her feet were difficult to move in the solid custard.  The same happens when slime is squeezed in the hand, it can be made into a firm ball, but the slime soon seeps through the fingers when it’s no longer squeezed.

The final demo seen in the video was all about seaweed jelly. Biology student Sara showed us how dried seaweed powder can be used to make jelly sweets. Chemical reactions between alginate particles (found in seaweed) and calcium salts produce solids which can be flavoured and coloured to make sweets like gummy snakes, and ice creams. Keen volunteers are seen making their own coloured versions by squirting the alginate mixture into a fish tank of salty water! This exciting and informative demo was voted by the school children to be the winner of the competition and a delighted Sara was awarded the glass trophy.

As is the tradition, to end the demo competition, the YSC team put on a demonstration of their own, this year with bubbles! The children learnt what bubbles are, how they are made, and why they pop. Everyone had the chance to stand to stand in their own giant bubble, even the teachers joined in the fun.

It was great end to a morning full of fun and hopefully memorable science.


The University of Central Lancashire and Royal Institution (Ri) Young Scientist Centre (YSC) is a partnership between the two institutions, modelled on the successful L'Oréal YSC at the Ri, London.

We are the first national branch of the YSC outside of London and a beacon for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in Lancashire.

Find out more about our range of workshops and how to book below.



Check for availability below and contact us for your bespoke enquiry at:


FREE GCSE Core Practical Workshops

The UCLan and Ri Young Scientist Centre offers a programme of FREE workshops for students to carry out some of the practical activities from the GCSE programme of study. The workshops are based around students having a chance to gain hands on knowledge of the apparatus and skills requirements of their course.

During the project the YSC team conducts a research study to assess whether the activity has any detectable effect on students’ attainment in test questions relating to the subject studied.

Who can take part in the project?

Any school can bring up to 30 students, currently covering the GCSE syllabus. As this is funded through UCLan’s access and widening participation (WP) work, at least 50% of students must meet at least one of our WP criteria,

The workshops currently offered are:

Measuring Waves – 4-hour workshop

This workshop allows students to use specialist equipment (ripple tanks and vibration generators to set up a standing wave on a string) in pairs to understand how waves in a liquid and a solid can be measured.

Acceleration – 4-hour workshop

This workshop gives students the opportunity to use a linear air track and light gates to explore Newton’s Second Law of motion, in small groups (maximum 5 pupils). They will investigate how changing the force on an object and the mass of that object affect the acceleration.

Rates of Reaction (Chemistry and Biology) – 4-hour workshop

This workshop gives students the opportunity to measure the rate of a chemical reaction using gas syringes and a reaction catalysed by an enzyme (amylase).

Workshops are offered throughout the year to tie in with when the topics are taught in school.
If you are interested in taking part, please email you can also download the flyer.



All workshops at the UCLan and Ri YSC can be tailored according to the group’s age and ability. Unless otherwise stated in the workshop description all of our workshops have:

Maximum capacity: 30 students
Duration: 4 hours including breaks
Cost: £150 per workshop
Download the flyer

Primary Workshops

Young Scientist Centre - Cosmetic Chemistry - Key Stage 2 - Workshop

Cosmetic Chemistry

Key Stage 2
Duration: 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

During this workshop, students will make their own bath bombs and lip balms! The workshop gives students a chance to learn about acids and alkalis whilst experimenting neutralisation reactions and producing their own personalised bath bombs. The students will then investigate the properties of materials and states of matter whilst making their own bespoke lip balm.

This workshop is a great introduction to pH, neutralisation, properties of material and solubility and changes of state.

Young Scientist Centre - Solar System - Workshop

Solar system

Key stage 2
Duration: 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

This workshop takes students on a journey through the solar system. They will investigate the Sun and the planets, learning about size, distance and learn the concepts of day, month and year. Through experimentation, students will discover the conditions on each of the planets and their implications for human space exploration. The second half of the workshop focuses on the determination of the relative gravity on Earth, Moon, Mars, Venus and Jupiter using Newton meters. This engaging workshop blends Biology, Physics and Chemistry to explore our Solar system.

What is colour workshop at the Young Scientist Centre Key Stag 2

What is Colour?

Key stage 2
Duration: 3 hours
Max Group Size: 30

Students will try to answer the question ‘What is colour?’ through experimentation. They will investigate how light behaves and how our eyes detect colour. Students will then use separation (centrifugation and chromatography) to investigate various dyes.  During the workshop, students will make their own natural dyes using berries and algae, and dye multi-fibre cloths they can take home. Finally, students will get a chance to use microscopes to observe the algae they used to make the dyes. This workshop is a good introduction to separation techniques and light.

Mission to Mars Workshop at the Young Scientist Centre - Key stage 2

Mission Mars

Upper Key Stage 2
Duration 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

Students are tasked with the mission of investigating the surface of Mars. During the workshop, students will learn to program LEGO Mindstorm robotic rovers, plan and program their rover’s route across the YSC’s model of the Mars surface.

The students use teamwork, maths and programming to successfully navigate the Mars model.

Young Scientist Centre - Electrifying Experiments - Workshop

Electrifying Experiments

Key stage 2
Duration 4 hours
Max Group size: 30

In this workshop, students will students will learn about all about electricity. They will draw and make series and parallel circuits and then add in switches and buzzers. The students will carry out circuit and voltage testing using power packs, batteries and voltmeters and explore conductivity. In the second half of the workshop, students will be set challenges to apply their knowledge of circuits. This is a fun workshop exploring electricity through a series of experiments and demonstrations using equipment usually found at high school level.

Extracting DNA Workshop - Key Stage 2 - Young Scientist Centre

Extracting DNA

Key Stage 2 and 3
Duration: 2 hours
Max Group Size: 30

This workshop is designed for students between the ages of 9 and 14 years old. Students will extract their own DNA and walk away with a small piece of it in a necklace for them to wear. Students will also get a chance to see where their DNA has come from by staining their cheek cells and view them under the microscope. This workshop is a great introduction to DNA, genes and inheritance.

Secondary Workshops

Extracting DNA - Key Stag 3 - Young Scientist Centre

Extracting DNA

Key Stage 2 and 3
Duration: 2 hours
Max Group Size: 30

This workshop is designed for students between the ages of 9 and 14 years old. Students will extract their own DNA and walk away with a small piece of it in a necklace for them to wear. Students will also get a chance to see where their DNA has come from by staining their cheek cells and view them under the microscope.

This workshop is a great introduction to DNA, genes and inheritance.

Forensic investigation - The Young Scientist Centre - Workshops

Forensic Investigation

Key Stage: 3 and 4
Duration: 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

During this workshop, students get to experience what it would be like to work in a forensics lab investigating a fictional murder. They will evaluate the crime scene and suspect DNA samples using fibre analysis and modern molecular biological techniques including restriction digests and gel electrophoresis. This workshop is a great introduction to genetics and forensic analysis and can be adapted for higher ability include ink analysis by TLC chromatography.

Pollution solution workshop - The Young Scientist Centre

Pollution Solution

Key Stage 3 and 4
Duration 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

Students will investigate why fish in a local river are dying by analysing water samples for nitrate levels, detecting metal ions, microbe-content and pH. This session focuses on how science works, with students making and testing predictions. Students will get a chance to use equipment usually found at university level, including micro-pipettes and colorimeters. In the session students learn new techniques, enjoy independent investigation and use data interpretation to draw their own conclusions about a common environmental issue.

Life on Mars - Workshop - Young Scientist Centre

Life on Mars

Key Stage 3 and 4
Duration 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

In this workshop, students learn how to program LEGO Mindstorm robotic rovers and they will plan and execute a route across YSC’s model of the Mars surface. The students use teamwork, maths and programming to successfully navigate and ‘drill’ Mars for soil samples.  In the second half of the workshop, the students will look for chemical signs of life in Mars soil samples.

This workshop has strong links with current research and space missions.

Magnets and motors workshop at the Young Scientist Centre

Magnets and Motors

Key Stage 3 and 4
Duration 4 hours
Max Group Size: 30

In this workshop, students will learn all about electro-magnetism through experimentation. Students will make an electro-magnet, homopolar motor, Westminster motor and a sound speaker. They will get a chance to learn about current research with demonstrations motors and levitating magnets that are super-cooled using liquid nitrogen.

This workshop is suitable for high-ability Year 9 but can be adapted for a mixed group.

Colour Chemistry Workshop - The Young Scientist Centre

Colour Chemistry

Key Stage 4 and 5
Duration: 4 hours
Max group size: 20

In this workshop students will discover what a colour actually is, understand how objects become coloured through their interaction with light, and how Chemists can manipulate these aspects to produce both natural and synthetic dyes. The students then discover how chemical bonding can lead to colour, and they produce both a natural and synthetic dye. The final part of the workshop pitches the students against a ‘real-life’ analytical chemistry scenario during which they will devise their own experiment using aspects of pH and colourimetry to solve a colourful problem.

A question of taste - workshop - Young Scientist Centre

A Question of Taste

Key Stage 5
Duration: 5 hours
Max group size: 20

In this genetics workshop, students will extract and test their own DNA using modern molecular biological techniques to compare their phenotype with their genotype. The workshop demonstrates evolution and genetic diversity by analysing the students’ ability to taste phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), a chemical found in vegetables such as sprouts and broccoli. The students will perform in real time a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), restriction digests and gel electrophoresis in the analysis of their own DNA.


Primary School CPD

Twilight CPD sessions are run to share ideas for practical activities to help deliver the Science curriculum at Key Stage 2. Each session is linked to the programme of study for a specific year group.

To assess the impact of the sessions we will ask teachers to take part in an evaluation exercise. This involves reflecting on science teaching back in the classroom after the training has been completed.

For more information about future CPD events please email


How to book

If you would like to book a workshop, please email the team on detailing the workshop and date you would like to book and they will send you all the relevant booking documentation.


Demo Competition

This is a competition held each year during British Science week.

Students and researchers preform a five-minute demonstration of any aspect of STEM targeted at primary school children aged 10 years old. The aim is engage and enthuse young children about STEM, in an exciting and novel way to convey scientific principles. Participants perform during heats where senior UCLan staff choose a number of finalists. An audience of local primary school children  choose the ultimate winner during a morning hosted in the YSC.

The winner is the holder of the Best UCLan and Ri Science demo trophy.

More news and activities on social media

YSC TwitterYSC YoutubeYSC Flickr