Tag Archives: questions

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #7

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions on Chemistry.

What happens when a chemical reaction happens and can it be reversed?

-asked by Charlie, 11, from Burnside Primary School

A chemical reaction is a process of transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. When chemical reaction happens, the atoms of the chemical substances (initially called reactants) are rearranged resulting in different substances we call chemical products. No atoms are lost or gained during the reaction, so the total mass of reactants will be the same as total mass of the products.

There are some reactions that are reversible, meaning the chemical products can go back to become reactants. However, there are also reactions that are irreversible, meaning once the reaction occurs, the products cannot be converted back into reactants again.

An Irreversible reaction is like baking. Once the egg, flour, butter, and milk are mixed and baked into a cake, they cannot go back to their original form. An example of an irreversible reaction is combustion process. Combustion involves burning an organic compound (such as wood) and oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water. Carbon dioxide and water are stable products and therefore they cannot go back to become wood and oxygen.
-Aurelia, Dentistry Student

Can orange juice be turned into a gas?

-asked by Emily, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Orange juice is a mixture of liquid (water) and solid components (i.e. natural sugars, vitamins and other minerals). If you were to heat orange juice to a temperature above 100°C, the water component of the orange juice would evaporate meaning that the liquid water would change into a gas. However, the sugar, vitamins and minerals would be left behind. 
– Jenny, Dentistry Student

What is the most dangerous chemical?

-asked by Alfie, 11, from Burnside Primary School

There are so many dangerous chemicals out there! The dangerous chemicals are usually toxic, volatile, corrosive, or explosive. One of the most dangerous chemical known to mankind is Chlorine Trifluoride which is also called substance N. This was studied by Nazi scientists during The World War II for military purposes. It is a colourless, poisonous, corrosive and extremely reactive gas. It is so volatile and will react with almost anything! It has been known to set fire to glass, sand, rust, and humans! It is usually transported in the form of condensed liquid which is pale- greenish yellow in colour. The United States tried to transport a huge amount of Chlorine Trifluoride before in a tanker and it was a bad move. The tanker spilled in a warehouse and set fire to it. The whole floor was gone, leaving a few feet of dirts and soil underneath. This compound is now of interest for rocket fuels and nuclear reactor fuel processing.
– Aurelia, Dentistry Student

Why does Carbon Dioxide not turn into water since it’s ice?

-Nathan, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Carbon dioxide does not turn into water even though it is ice because water and carbon dioxide are two different compounds each with their own chemical composition, which means that they have different properties. Carbon dioxide, whether it be in gas or solid (a.k.a. dry ice) form, is made of one carbon and two oxygens. Therefore, it is known as CO2. Whereas water in either gas, liquid or solid state is made of two hydrogens and one oxygen and is therefore known as H2O.

COand H2O are very different from each other and when they are frozen, they form different solids because H2O freezes to form regular ice at 0°C and COgas freezes at -78°C to form dry ice. When regular ice melts, it changes from a solid to a liquid and will leave a puddle. On the other hand, dry ice is so called because when it is exposed to temperatures greater than -78°C it does not melt, it actually sublimes, meaning it changes from a solid straight to a gas and leaves no liquid or puddle behind (hence “dry” ice). 
– Jenny, Dentistry Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #6

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions on Zoology, the study of animals to celebrate the International Day of Biological Diversity on Friday.

Why is there different animals in different areas?

-asked by Halliemae, 9, Simonside Primary School

Animals are different because they need to survive in the environment they live in. They adapt to their surroundings to achieve this. For example, there are polar bears in the Arctic. Their bodies are covered in white fur so they can camouflage with the ice around them, making them harder to spot when they look for preys. However, their skin is black and their body is huge, this is so they can still absorb heat and stay warm in the cold. Their feet are also big and have a rough surface, helping them to swim and not slip on the ice. Can you imagine if they didn’t have these adaptations, would they be able to survive in that habitat? Other animals that do not have features that help them survive in their habitat will eventually struggle to survive and die. That is why there are different animals in different places as they have different adaptations required to be able to survive.
Aurelia, Dental Student

Why does a whale have a blow hole?

-asked by Isobel, 11, from Marden Bridge Middle School

Whales have blowholes because although they live in the ocean, they are actually mammals, which means they breathe air just like us! Their blowhole is an adaptation to allow them to easily breath in lots oxygen when they come to the surface so that they can dive for long periods of time. 
– Demi, Marine Biology Student

Why are a giraffes’ tongues blue?

-asked by Ellis, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Their tongues are dark blue because they have a large amount of a colour pigment called melanin. Giraffes feed by using their tongues to rip leaves off trees high up in the African savanna. This means that their tongues are in the sun for a long time, nobody knows for certain but some people think that the high amounts of melanin are to stop them getting sunburn on their tongues – a sunburn tongue has got to hurt a lot! We also have melanin in our skin that stops us getting sunburn but not as much as the giraffe which is why it doesn’t need to put suncream on its tongue!
– Lizzie, Biology Student

Why do bees get nectar?

-asked by Finlay, 11, from Burnside Primary School

Bees use the nectar and pollen they collect from flowers as food, nectar is a sweet sugary liquid made by flowers to attract bees and other insects and animals. Flowers use the bees to spread pollen between themselves and other flowers (pollen is what makes people with hayfever sneeze). The bees store pollen in a structure called a pollen basket on their back legs they store nectar in an organ called a honey stomach. Back at the hive the bees that have been out collecting nectar pass it to other bees who make the nectar into honey. 
-Lizzie, Biology Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #5

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions on Engineering!

How do rockets get so much power to shoot into space?

-asked by Lea, 8, from West Jesmond Primary

Rockets are not too different from regular planes and cars – they all need something called ‘fuel’. The only difference is that rockets need a (lot of) special fuel to allow them to take off. The fuel is burned inside the bottom of the rocket which produces a hot gas (called an exhaust gas). This hot gas is pushed out the bottom of the rocket through something called a ‘nozzle’ (a tube that gets smaller closer to the exit) which makes the gas travel faster (acceleration). It’s this acceleration of the gas that’s used to push the rocket off the ground. Rocket fuel is special as it produces lots of energy compared to regular fuel – the same way some foods give us more energy than others (like chocolate!)
– Jenny, Mechanical Engineering Student

Why are triangles the strongest shape to build lots of bridges?

-asked by Rosie, 10, from Ravenswood Primary School

Shapes that have straight sides are called ‘polygons’. Triangles are special because out of all the polygons, they have the least number of sides. Because triangles only have three straight sides, they are harder to squash than other shapes, for example: squares. If you look at the picture below, you can see how applying a force to a square would make it deform (squash), whereas no matter how you apply force to a triangle, this can’t happen because each side supports each other, which is why triangles are so strong! This is why engineers use triangles in their designs, to make their bridges as strong as possible.
-Jenny, Mechanical Engineering student

How was electricity made?

-asked by Emily, 7, from Simonside Primary School

When we refer to electricity, we mean the movement of tiny particles called electrons through a material that will allow them to pass through called a conducting material. An example of a conducting material is a copper wire which we usually see covered by rubber – if you have a charger for a tablet or phone then that is a great example.

To generate electricity, you usually need a fuel source. This could be in the form of coal or gas and nowadays hydropower and wind are becoming increasingly common sources of fuel. Electricity is generated through a machine called a generator which takes one form of energy and converts it into electrical energy. A common visual example would be a wind turbine. You can often find these in large empty fields or sometimes when you go to the beach you can see wind turbines far out in the ocean. Wind causes the blades of the turbine to spin which means magnets inside the wind turbine will also spin. These magnets are surrounded by copper wires which allow electrons to flow through them when the magnets spin around them and this flow of electrons is what generates electricity.
– Sidra, Mechanical Engineering Student

How do TVs and computers work?

-asked by Yedam, 8, from West Jesmond Primary School

Computers and other electronic devices like TVs, phones and tablets all work in a similar way – they take instructions in the form of ‘code’ – code is just a language that computers can understand. These coded instructions are called ‘programming’. A computer scientist ‘programs’ a computer to work before we buy it so it can recognise our instructions – this is the computer’s ‘software’. When we give our computer an instruction (such as turning it on, clicking the mouse or going onto the internet) the ‘software’ tells the physical parts (the ‘hardware’) what to do.
– Jenny, Mechanical Engineering Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #4

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering questions around Medicine and Health.

What is blood made of?

-asked by Lacey, 8, from Simonside Primary School

There are many things which make up blood! The easiest way to think about it is that it contains liquids and solids. The liquid part of blood is called plasma which is mainly water with some salts dissolved in it and also some proteins. The plasma allows blood to flow, carrying the solids around the body to where they are needed. The salts are important in controlling how much water is in the body, this is why it is dangerous to eat lots of salt!

The plasma makes up around half of blood, the rest is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells have a dip in the middle which gives them lots of space to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body. Oxygen bound to red blood cells is what makes blood red.

The white blood cells come in lots of different types and are part of the immune system which protects the body from germs like bacteria and viruses. They recognise germs which don’t belong in the body and kill them in lots of different ways before they can make us sick.

Platelets are important in allowing us to form scabs when we cut ourselves. The platelets all stick together over a cut and stop us losing too much blood. 
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

Why do people get allergic reactions to things?

-asked by Abbie, 11, Burnside Primary School

Allergic reactions happen in some people when the immune system overreacts to something harmless, called an allergen, because it thinks it is dangerous to the body. Our immune system is very important to keep our bodies safe from germs such as bacteria and viruses that can cause disease. While the red cells in our blood carry oxygen all around the body, the white blood cells make up the immune system.

The white blood cells are very clever at recognising germs in the body and realising that they don’t belong and can be harmful. When they find a germ, they activate other white blood cells to attack the germ in lots of different ways. Some white blood cells can swallow a germ whole and then dissolve it – this is called phagocytosis. Other white blood cells release antibodies which stop the germs being harmful and cause them to all stick together, others release chemicals such as histamine which causes swelling and brings in more white blood cells to help.

However, in some people the white blood cells get confused and think something safe, like peanuts or shellfish, are harmful to the body. Scientists haven’t figured out why this happens to some people but not others although sometimes it runs in families and is linked to other conditions like asthma and hay-fever. When people with allergies eat or touch something they are allergic to the immune system becomes activated causing redness, swelling and itching. In a serious case the throat may swell up making it hard to breathe, this is why some people with allergies carry an EpiPen which contains adrenaline to stop the swelling.
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

How many medicines are in the world?

-Asked by Ruby, 10, from Simonside Primary School

It is impossible to know exactly how many different medicines there are, it will be thousands and thousands! The types of medicines used in different parts of the world are very varied and medicines are always changing.

Doctors used to think that all sickness was due to ‘bad blood’ so they put leaches on sick people to suck it out! Luckily, they don’t do that anymore. For most diseases there are many treatments available. For example, there are lots of different inhalers for asthma which are different colours depending on which medicine is inside, and there are tablets you can take too. Which medicine works best depends on the person, sometimes doctors have to try a few before they find the right one. Medicines come in lots of different forms, sometimes you may take an antibiotic as a pill, drink it as a liquid, or have it as an injection.

In summary, there are too many medicines to count! Some things we use every day such as garlic and ginger can be used as medicine if you know what you are doing! Luckily for everyone Scientists and researchers are creating more medicine and treatments every day!
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

I would like to work in Tropical Medicine. How long would I need to study for?

-asked by Liam, 11, Burnside Primary School

Lots of people work in tropical medicine including biomedical researchers, epidemiologists, doctors and microbiologists to name a few. So the length of time you have to study for will really depend on what aspect of tropical medicine you want to end up in, most researchers for example will have done 4 or 5 years of university and doctors need to have done 5 years of university and 9 years of specialist training. People who work in tropical medicine are always learning new things even after they’ve officially stopped studying.
-JC, Medical Student

STEM Students answer Children’s Questions #3

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re answering the more general questions from children curious what life is like for a scientist.

What made you want to become a scientist?

-asked by Dylan, 10, from Simonside Primary School

Interesting question. I wanted to become a scientist because I find that science is a great way to find out more about the world and how it works. It gives me a whole different way of looking at and understanding the world.

For example, look at your hand and wiggle your fingers, that is all happening due to nerve impulses, which are a form of electricity that travel from the brain along nerves to your fingers instructing them to move.

Or even the reason we see colour such as green is because a green object will absorb all light but green light, and this reflects back making the object look green!

And that’s just the tiniest part of it. There is so much to discover and it’s all so intricate and fits together in such a clever way.

So, a bit of a lengthy answer but in short there is far too much interesting stuff out there for me not to become a scientist and try and find out as much as I can. The best thing is, I will never be able to find out everything, there will always be something for someone else to discover, someone like you, if you wanted!
– James, Biology & Psychology Student

Does your experiments work all the time?

-asked by Farah, 8, from West Jesmond Primary School

Unfortunately they don’t always work out, but that’s what makes science so exciting since we can still learn things from the times things didn’t work out like we planned. Loads of scientific discoveries and new inventions have been made by accident including X-rays, corn flakes and Velcro.
– JC, Medical Student

Why do we need to do science?

-asked by Harith, 7.5, from West Jesmond Primary School

That’s a great question. Science is really important because it helps us answer so many questions like ‘why is the sky blue’ but it also can be used to design and make cars, computers and other great things that people use every day.

It can also help us save and improve lives by creating medicines and new treatments for diseases; figuring out the best way to grow enough food for millions of people; and generating electricity to power homes.

Science is even used in places you might not expect like in producing the colour dyes for your clothes and in your favourite sweets!
-JC, Medical Student & Clare, STEM Outreach Officer

What is your favourite thing about science?

-asked by Jonathon, 11, from Burnside Primary School

I love how science lets me understand all the amazing mysteries in the world, from gravity which stops us from flying into space to electricity which powers my home!

I’m particularly interested in the science of biology and the human body, I find all the different ways the body adapts to change to keep us healthy very clever. Everything in the body is in balance, the lungs breath in more oxygen to supply our muscles when we exercise, and the kidneys hold in salt and water when we are dehydrated. Wanting to learn more, I decided train to be a doctor to learn how to fix the body when things go wrong.

I am amazed by the inventions and discoveries by scientists that help us treat diseases more efficiently. X-rays and CT scanners allow us to see inside the body from the outside while antibiotics and vaccinations treat and prevent infections that would otherwise be fatal.

My overall favourite thing about science is that as it is so broad, there is something to interest everyone! A scientist can be anyone from a zoologist to a nuclear physics to students doing experiments in school! Science is always changing as scientists and researchers making new discoveries that challenge the way we see the world, and engineers and computer scientists come up with inventions that change our day to day life.
-Ailie, Medical Student & Evolution and Human Behaviour Masters Student

If you have any questions that you would like our team to answer, please leave a comment below!

STEM Students Answer Children’s Questions #1

When visiting schools and museums our Street Scientists often get asked a variety of questions from curious children. Here are the answers to some of our favourite questions!

This week, we’re focusing on questions around Earth Science and other planets.

If the Earth is the right distance away for it to be not too hot, not too cold, how come the north and south pole are cold?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

As the Earth goes around the Sun it spins on its own axis. The equator is the closest bit to the sun during the day so it heats up, and stays relatively warm during the night as the atmosphere is good at retaining heat. The poles however are always the furthest part away from the Sun hence never warm up and are thus are the coldest parts of the Earth.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student

How do we get seasons?

– asked by a student from Blaydon West Primary School

The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted by 23.5 degrees and so some bits of the Earth’s surface are slightly closer to the Sun than the other bits. So in the Summer, the Northern Hemisphere is angled towards the Sun; in the Winter it is angled away from the Sun.
– Leo, Mechanical Engineering Student

What are the rings of a planet made of?

– asked by a student from Mortimer Primary School

There are rings around all of the planets known as gas giants; Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. These rings are made up of asteroid and ice particles. Only the rings around Saturn can be seen from Earth as they contain more ice which reflects the sunlight more. The rings around most of the gas giants (Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune) were formed from the impact of asteroids and meteorites which threw dust out into orbit. Whereas Saturn’s rings were formed by the impact of an icy moon causing a lot of bigger chunks of debris to be thrown into orbit. Although the debris is pushing away from the planet the gravity pulls this debris towards the planet enough to keep it in orbit.
– Jade, Earth Science student

How do you make a planet?

– asked by a student from Bede Burn Primary School

All matter was formed in a huge explosion called the Big Bang over 13 billion years ago. There are two main theories about the formation of planets, but they are both driven by a force called gravity which is the force that keeps us on the ground and causes objects to fall when dropped. Gravity causes the material formed in the big bang to come together forming asteroids and eventually planets. As these asteroids crash into each other they release a lot of heat that causes them to melt. This melting allows the heavier, denser elements to sink to the centre of the planet and the lighter elements rise further up. This separation forms the layers within the planets.
– Jade, Earth Science student

Have any more questions you’d like to ask our experts? Write them in the comments below!

Your Questions Answered!

As we have reached the end of the school year, here is a little round up of some of our favourite questions that children have asked us during STEM workshops.

1. Why doesn’t the energy ball give you an electric shock?

The energy ball is a little device we have that looks like a ping pong ball with two metal strips on top. Inside there is a light, a buzzer and a battery. If two people touch one metal strip each and then with their other hands touch each other, the ball lights up and buzzes. This works because we are conductors of electricity – electrons from the battery flow through us and back into the ball to complete the circuit.

The reason you don’t feel a shock when touching the energy ball because there isn’t enough electricity flowing through you to be able to feel it, and certainly not enough to harm you!

2. What do plants poo and wee? – St Wilfrids, Blyth

All living things have seven things in common – movement, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. The sixth one, excretion, is a scientific word for producing waste. In humans, and many animals, that is our poo and our wee. They are the leftover waste products that our body doesn’t need so gets rid of.

Plants are living things, just like us, but you may have noticed they don’t poo or wee like we do. Rather than eat food like us, they make their own through photosynthesis. This produces a waste gas called oxygen which we breath in. Plants excrete oxygen rather than poo or wee.

3. Why does the moon control the sea? – Grange First School

Gravity is the force that keeps us close to the Earth, all really big things like planets and stars have a gravitational pull that attracts things near by. Because the moon is so big and so close to Earth it has quite a strong gravitational pull on our planet. The moon causes the water in the oceans facing it to pull towards it, resulting in a high tide. The pull of the sun’s gravity and the Earth’s own gravity also have an effect on the tides.

4. I’m the only one who can touch their nose with their tongue, is that because of my genes? – St Marys, Jarrow

Touching your nose with your tongue is known as Gorlin’s Sign. It is associated with a genetic disorder but not everyone that can do it has the disorder. About 10% of people without the disorder can touch their nose with their tongue and it does not appear to be due to genes you have inherited from your parents.

5. Why do we get goosebumps? – Billingham South Community School

We often get goosebumps when we’re cold, but they don’t do much to help us warm up, so why do we get them? Before we evolved to be modern humans, our ancestors were much hairier, we they got cold, getting goosebumps would cause their hairs to stand on end. As they had much more hair than us, they were able to trap a layer of air in the hair by doing this, providing them with extra insulation to keep them warm.

Although goosebumps are no longer helpful to us, we haven’t lost the trait through evolution because it doesn’t harm us. Therefore if a person was born with a mutation in their genes meaning they didn’t get goosebumps, they wouldn’t be at an advantage because of it so the non-goosebump genes wouldn’t necessarily be passed on more than the goosebump genes.


If you have any STEM related questions that you would like us to answer, just leave a comment in the box below!