“Reigniting” the Ashfield Music Festival

Lead name:
Gan Shermer
Collaborating Institutions:
Funding call:
Spoke Activity - £10,000
Programme contact:
South West spoke
This project is aimed at taking the model developed by the Institute of Physics in the Ashfield Music Festival and reworking it to be used by Chemistry undergraduates. The students will be tasked with running a simulated fireworks display which will involve the development of key transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership and commercial awareness in a discipline-specific context and requiring some basic undergraduate chemistry knowledge. The resources will be developed with involvement from from industry allowing us to improve the alignment between skills needs of employers of STEM graduates and the needs of the graduates themselves.
Project Aims

The aim of this project is to develop an activity based on the Ashfield Music Festival model through which chemistry undergraduates are able to develop key transferable skills such as commercial awareness, communication and teamwork in a discipline relevant context.

Project Objectives

The main objective of the project is to build on good practice produced during the IOP Ashfield Music Festival project and develop the idea into a resource which can be used by Chemistry undergraduates to develop key transferable skills such as leadership and commercial awareness in a chemistry context.


The proposed scenario is that of a fireworks display. This will involve several different roles such as project manager, health and safety, firework composition and environmental advisor, each relying on different skills sets and also include several areas of chemistry from the undergraduate curriculum such as thermodynamics and transition metals.


At Bath the majority of students undertake a placement in their third year and as such this activity would be aimed at Year 2 students in preparation for their experiences in the workplace. In addition, teamworking and communication skills are often assessed in the final year of all degree programmes and giving the students chance to develop and practice these in Year 2 has a sound pedagogical basis.


The activity relies on experts in each field to introduce the roles to students. It is proposed that these roles could be taken by PhD students during the activity which has the additional benefit of facilitating peer-mentoring and making undergraduates more aware of career pathways after graduation. The project will be heavily informed by industry experts from local firework manufacturers who would be involved with creating videos on each expert role. It is thought that the activity will run over several weeks so teams have time to develop their ideas before presenting them to the judging panel, which could involve experts from industry.


Dr Roy Lowry, a pyrotechnics expert and media science advisor at the University of Plymouth, will be engaged to provide technical details and to help with media skills. In addition, Dr Nicky King from the University of Exeter will trial the activity at Exeter once it has been developed.

Funding for the project will enable a project officer to research the scenario, liaise with industry experts and students, and produce the resources. In addition videos involving industry experts will be produced on DVD to introduce each role to students.


Project Outputs

The benefits to undergraduate students are clear in terms of developing key skills. In addition the students who will act as Expert mentors will also develop important communication skills which will enhance their employability. Strengthening links between industry and the HEI also has a benefit to the Department and STEM practitioners.

Project Outcomes

The project will produce a set of resources along a similar template to those produced in the Ashfield Music Festival pack, including:

  • Briefing sheets for students and experts
  • Work-sheets
  • Videos and background resources


Once produced these resources could very easily be used by other chemistry departments or adapted to suit other STEM disciplines.


A dissemination event will be held for all HEIs across the South West in conjunction with the Chemistry South West network to launch the resources and spread good practice from the project. In addition to this, the project lead and project officer will attend other dissemination events such as HEA subject Centre meetings and Variety in Chemistry Education conference as well as write new articles within the university and wider community to further publicise the resource and the National HE STEM programme.


Project progress

Contact Gan Shermer