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11th August 2014, 8:35am
Children become ‘summer scientists’ at the University of Lincoln
Summer Scientist Week Around 250 children have been given a taste of scientific research when they became ‘summer scientists’ at the University of Lincoln, UK.

Youngsters aged between three and 10 years old played games ranging from optical illusions and computer games to stacking cups and quizzes with a team of psychologists as part of Summer Scientist Week at the University.

Ten of the activities were designed as fun games, but were also used by academics for collecting research data to understand more about how children acquire the cognitive abilities we rely on as adults The results will be prepared for publication in academic journals.

The event, held between 4th and 8th August, is now in its fourth year. It also featured a fun zone featuring face painting, computer dancing games and hook-a-duck, for children to spend tokens earned for taking part in the research games, has been run at the University.

Organiser Dr Fenja Ziegler, a developmental psychologist from Lincoln's School of Psychology, said: “This is a really fun way for children to engage with science, while also helping us to better understand the way that children develop.

“The games are all designed to appeal to young children, while also providing a strong foundation for gathering data. Our findings across all 10 research games will form the basis for publications in scientific journals and presentations at academic conferences across a wide range of topics linked to child development.

“We were fully-booked for participants and we’re really pleased with how successful this week has been. We will also summarise our most interesting findings in our Summer Scientist newsletter and blog.”

The 10 research sessions were run in parallel, exploring different aspects of cognitive development, from testing visual acuity, impulsive behaviour and coordination, to recognising emotion and altruism.

One test examining risk taking in children looked at whether they take more risks when earning points for themselves or for someone else during a computer game. Children had to blow up a balloon, with more points awarded the larger it became, but the balloon could pop at any time.  

Children also enjoyed hearing about how the brain works, learning how our eyes can play tricks on us, and looking at optical illusions.

All 250 places were booked within a week of registrations opening.

Ten academics from across the School of Psychology were involved in running the activities, supported by around 35 student volunteers. Summer Scientist Week 2014 took place in the Minerva Building (main administration) on the University of Lincoln's main Brayford Pool Campus.

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