I was first made aware of the Brilliant Club by a colleague, who described the scheme as a way for secondary school pupils to engage with university level research as part of their extra curricula education.
Designed solely for Doctoral level Research Students, the scheme partners a Postgraduate Research Student with a secondary school and through 15 x 1-hour sessions, 6 pupils learn about ground-breaking research, while also participating in some GCSE level science/maths relevant to the project. While the Brilliant Club is focussed on pupils getting excited with higher education, the scheme took on an additional key role in pupil development due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Through my placement with Cardinal Langley High School – I provided Zoom tutorials in Physics for Year 11 students. On a personal level, it was a completely different experience to anything I have experienced as a Doctoral Student and was a real (but fulfilling) challenge. Engaging with the pupils so that they are active in the session, getting them enthused about the physics they were doing and trying to explain concepts to them without grasping how much they knew beforehand. A highlight from the programme would be the technical improvement of one pupil, who initially struggled with equations, mathematical laws, and base units. They would immediately give up and say, “I don’t know” and were unable to do much of what we tackled in the session. Afterwards, I changed up the tasks to be a bit more perceptible and allowed them time to identify the underlying physics happening with each equation through video and interactive tasks. After a few weeks, the change in attitude and confidence in the pupil was immense, and they were completing some of the hardest tasks I’d set in the tutorials (even coming top of the Kahoot physics quizzes against their classmates). It was really fulfilling to see a pupil push away self-doubt in their ability and take on whatever was thrown at them.
The placement also honed exam skills in preparation for the upcoming GCSE’s and made a positive impact on the students grades as shown by a report published by the Brilliant Club, outlining the clear difference in performance between the pupils who had attended the tutorials and those who did not. A rewarding experience, I would greatly recommend the Brilliant Club to EngD students in the M2A as it provides a direct way to ‘give back’ to the future STEM generation, by outreaching to those unfairly disadvantaged by the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it also provides an opportunity to push yourself outside of the comfort zone of the University to engage with an entirely new audience – A skill no doubt useful for any career after the EngD.