UK pupils get hands on with Robots, God and Genetic Engineering


 VC opens

University of Reading’s Institute of Education welcomed 300 pupils and teachers from across 13 British schools this week in a unique partnership with science and religious education secondary departments.

Pupils from across the UK gathered at the Institute’s Robots, God and Genetic Engineering workshop which was opened by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading. The day was scheduled to include acclaimed scientists from a number of universities, including Reading, who explored stem cells, robotics, ethics and philosophy with their young guests. Workshop sessions included building robots, cloning cauliflowers and discussion about the brain, the mind and free will.

Organiser, Dr. Berry Billingsley, Senior Lecturer in Science Education at Reading’s Institute of Education said:

“We are becoming increasingly aware as a training institution, that the pressure is growing on teachers nationwide to deliver globally and scientifically aware future citizens. Proposed new GCSEs are likely to have a heavy focus on genetics, and for the first time evolution is likely to be part of the Primary School science curriculum. So it’s not a surprise we have been inundated by schools from across the country wanting to take advantage of our free workshop, that sets out to nurture pupils to ask not only ethical questions but also bigger questions about life and what medical science can do for us and to us.”

 Prof John Bryant, a speaker on genetic engineering and bioethics, Dr Nick Hawes from Birmingham’s Intelligent Robotics Lab with robot ‘Dora the Explorer’, Prof Kevin Warwick, cybernetics expert and inventor of the robot rat complemented a frenzied day of activities for the enthusiastic teenagers:

Tim, 15, from City of Norwich School mused : “Although I googled the event the day before I wasn’t really sure what the day would bring. Now my head is buzzing with even more questions then I came with. It’s really made me think about and all the things I could do with my GCSE choices this year.”

Rob, a Science Teacher at Shire Oak Academy, Brownhills, Walsall said:

“Our academy is science based and our aim is to focus on the gifted and talented. Today’s workshop has not only opened our pupils eyes, but has made me think about all the ways our staff can get young people to engage in learning. The most significant part of today’s invitation is how many pupils have told me that they don’t think that going to University is boring anymore. That’s a really valuable aspiration to work towards.”.

This is the second event at the Institute of Education of its kind and is supported by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at Cambridge.

To find out about forthcoming events, visit or email the LASAR events coordinator, Janet Lake at


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