COVID-19 educational online event watched by thousands of eager students & STEM fans

28 July 2020

Big Bang Digital 2020_Greg Foot
Big Bang Digital 2020_Greg Foot

'Big Bang Digital 2020 – science, engineering & Covid-19', the one-day digital STEM event which took place in mid-July, has given almost 50,000 young people the opportunity to listen to and speak with scientists, engineers, technicians, healthcare professionals & students about the essential role of science & engineering during a pandemic. Sessions from the day are now available to view on demand.

'Big Bang Digital 2020 – science, engineering & Covid-19', the one-day digital event which took place in mid-July gave an inspirational and uplifting look at the essential role of science and engineering in a pandemic. Young people had the opportunity to listen and chat to world-leading scientists, healthcare professionals, engineers, technicians and other students who have been, and continue to be, vital in the fight against the disease, and in keeping essential services and supplies available.

The event was watched live by almost 28,000 viewers, and subsequently viewed by up to 50,000 young people, including 4,773 British Sign Language viewers, across 24 hours. Research reveals that almost 80% of viewers were inspired to consider a future career in science, technology or engineering.

Young people were given the opportunity to ask questions to world-renowned scientist and SAGE member, Sir Jeremy Farrar live on air in the 'Ask the Experts' session. Many also joined the GSK workshop to find out more about their work in finding a vaccine. The event also played host to exclusive videos from Sir David Attenborough, which were part of an interactive session by Plastic Oceans UK on how plastic pollution may well have worsened during the pandemic.

The day also saw a lot of fun, with BBC’s Gastronaut, Stefan Gates who produced the colours of the rainbow in a science show called 'Explosion of colour'. Viewers also tuned into a session where TV & Radio Science Presenter, Podcaster & YouTuber, Greg Foot, who hosted the day, talked to a red panda. The red panda was the on-screen avatar used by an intelligence agent for security reasons, as he explained what you should be doing to keep yourself safe and secure online.

When polled on the day, almost 80% of young viewers said they were inspired to consider a future career in science, technology or engineering, a higher proportion than young people surveyed generally – no doubt so they can become the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, who help prevent future pandemics. It also discovered that 63% of viewers think that people will respect the environment more as a result of seeing the detrimental impact humans can have.

Beth Elgood, Director of Communications at EngineeringUK, which organised the digital event, said: “The Big Bang Digital event was a huge success – this was not only evident by the numbers of engaged young people tuning in, but also the positive comments we received. To hear that 80% of viewers would consider a future career in science, technology or engineering is so encouraging. We’re really proud that The Big Bang Digital has inspired them and hope it’s long lasting.

We know from research by the British Science Association that almost nine in ten young people do not think scientists (89%) or politicians (92%) are talking to them when discussing COVID-19, so it was great that the Big Bang Digital was able to give young people insight into the important roles engineers and scientists play in a pandemic, as well as the opportunity for them to ask these experts first-hand any questions they have about the pandemic – an opportunity that otherwise wouldn’t be possible for many.

When asked what they thought about the event, the young viewers made comments including:

•    “Very informative and enjoyable. Interactive features and the live chat were very useful. Thank you for putting together this event!

•    “I like how kids can understand Covid-19 by using this website, and you can learn more and meet people who are working here and now.

•    “I like it because you can hear about all the NHS workers and their stories, and the other important people during the pandemic. I love how you can ask questions to the people on here with a live chat.

•    “It helped me picture what my parents are going through.

•    “I’m finding it really interesting and am learning a lot. It’s really good how it’s been related to the times and allows you to hear all the amazing questions and answers, and how we can help in the future, as well as how our lives will be changed.

•    “This event was a great opportunity for young people to discover more about this pandemic that seems so out of reach.

•    "Big Bang Digital inspires others to become awesome engineers and to create something new to show the next generation of technology and creativity.

•    “Big Bang Digital can help you find a good career as I saw the different types of engineering and this is useful for the people who would like to start this career.

During the event viewers were invited to participate in the 'Meet The Future You Quiz', a careers quiz designed to test how your skills and passions could lead to an exciting job in the future. 4,900 viewers completed the quiz on the day of the event, and an additional 1,369 have done so since. There have also been an impressive 4,194 views of the content since it was made available on demand.

All the content from the day – 'The Big Bang Digital 2020 - science, engineering & Covid-19' full stream, as well as individual sessions showcasing the incredible contribution of scientists, healthcare professionals, engineers, technicians and students in responding to the pandemic – is now available to view on demand at

About Big Bang Digital 2020

'Big Bang Digital 2020 – science, engineering & Covid-19' took place online on Tuesday 14 July. The event celebrated the amazing work of scientists & engineers in the pandemic and aims to show young people aged 11+ the incredible things you can achieve working in STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths). The event was a day of inspiring online sessions, including live Q&As, to give young people a front row view of the incredible contribution of scientists, healthcare professionals, engineers, technicians and students in responding to Covid-19. All content can now be viewed on demand online at


Explosion of colour – a Gastronaut adventure

BBC Gastronaut Stefan Gates and his daughter Poppy embark on a stunning scientific adventure through the colours of the rainbow in a show filmed in the Gastrolab. Dedicated to all the key workers working so hard for us all, the show is packed with spectacular, colourful science demos using glowing drinks, colour-changing breath, sugar explosions and edible insects. Stef and Poppy explore the visible spectrum and beyond, using infra-red cameras, UV lights, marshmallows – and quite a lot of rockets.

Ask the experts: your questions about the virus

In this live Q&A, young people put their coronavirus questions to world-renowned scientist, Sir Jeremy Farrar. Students from across the country lead the conversations, as they put their challenging questions to the experts live on air. Wellcome Trust director, Jeremy, has been advising the government on Covid-19 as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). Jeremy is recognised internationally for his outstanding contributions to the field of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, dengue fever and influenza.

On the frontline: NHS workers tackling coronavirus

Hear from NHS staff – a critical care doctor, a student midwife, healthcare scientists and a paramedic – about how they use their STEM skills to help care for patients. Some have had to shield from Covid-19, but others have been working throughout the pandemic. How have they found working during the lockdown? What do they do and which skills are the most important in their jobs? Find out and ask some questions of your own. The NHS has been vital in caring for people who have become ill with Covid-19. From the respiratory doctors and intensive care nurses, to the paramedics responding to calls and the scientists analysing results, every part of the health service has risen to the challenge.

Plastic Oceans UK – New habits to protect the planet: the environmental impact of staying at home

COVID-19 is rightly the world’s biggest focus at the moment, but plastic pollution in our oceans hasn’t gone away. In fact, it might even have got worse! Join Christian Brighty, from Plastic Oceans UK, in this interactive session about how you can make a positive difference right now. With exclusive videos from Sir David Attenborough and a look at the latest cutting-edge science, we explore the important question of 'How do we change our habits to protect the planet, at a time like this?'.

GSK – The worldwide race to develop a vaccine

Join GSK’s workshop to learn more about what a vaccine is, how vaccines work and how they are collaborating with partners across the globe in response to COVID-19. The world is racing to develop a vaccine. It’s a complex challenge, but there are promising signs with around 120 vaccine programmes worldwide, and human trials starting recently in the UK. This workshop explores how GSK are researching medicines and vaccines to treat and prevent COVID-19 – you'll also discover a process that scientists use in their labs everyday that you can use at home.

RS Components – Don't stand so close to me: designing a social distancing lanyard

Join electronics engineer, Nathan Ruttley, to find out how you can build a handy social distancing lanyard that lights up to alert you when you come too close to another person! Nathan, winner of the ‘BrightSparks 30 top Engineers under 30’ in 2019, will talk through how he came up with the remarkable idea, and the journey from designing a prototype to building a fully working product. In this session, you'll find out what you need to make one for yourself at home, including how you can personalise your lanyard and make it unique by creating a custom case.

Big Bang Digital 2020_580x280
Big Bang Digital 2020_580x280

Thames Water – Keeping the water flowing

"While we are all staying home, who is keeping the water running?" Thames Water have played their part, supporting workers across the UK to keep essential services running. Science and technology is a huge part of their business. With 15 million customers to stay in touch with and more than 85,000 miles of pipes to monitor 24/7 – that’s enough to go around the world 3.5 times. Technology helps them manage these challenges every day, especially during the pandemic when they are having to adapt to a new way of working. Meet Thames Water’s Akhil Vyas, Andrew Tucker and Liz Banks to hear how they are getting to grips with the changes, staying connected to customers and keeping their teams, who are out on the frontline, safe. You'll also find out what innovations are set to last, even after COVID-19.

Young talent against Covid-19 - in conversation with Big Bang Competition winner, meeting the challenge head on

Presenter Fayon Dixon in conversation with inspiring young people, all Big Bang Competition winners, talking about their role in the pandemic response, studying in lockdown and sharing tips for competition success. Design engineer student and GSK UK Young Engineer 2018, Josh Mitchell, has been helping get low-cost 3D printers into African hospitals, so they can produce their own PPE. Zuzana Hudácová was a Competition winner this year. She is about to begin an internship where she'll be helping to develop a Covid-19 diagnostic test.

Environment Agency – Rebuilding a greener future: tackling the climate emergency

Join Jayne, Ayo and Jessie to explore how we can rebuild a greener future. The Environment Agency is committed to tackling the climate emergency and building more resilient communities who can adapt to and bounce back from the impacts of climate change. In this session, they’ll share some of the challenges they’ve had to overcome. They’ll explore the impact of the pandemic on the way we work and how we relate to each other, the behaviour changes we have seen during lockdown, and most importantly, what positive lessons we can build on when the country returns to ‘normal’.

Network Rail – Staying on track: keeping the railway moving

Hear how Network Rail is working to keep vital goods moving and train services running for essential workers during lockdown. The coronavirus outbreak has put great pressure on the railways, and teams across the nation are working tirelessly to keep vital services moving, ensuring key workers can continue their essential journeys and to get urgent supplies to supermarket shelves and to the NHS. Learn more how teams across the network have had to adopt new ways of working to ensure those who need to travel can reach their destinations safely, and how the rail freight industry is working together to keep the country moving.

Imperial College London – Designing a low-cost ventilator

Hear from the team behind ‘JAMVENT’, a low-cost emergency ventilator, developed by bioengineers at Imperial College London in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In this session you’ll learn why ventilation is needed, how breathing works, and how to build and test a ventilator. Ventilators are used when an infection stops people being able to breathe on their own. When more ventilators were needed at the start of the pandemic, a national challenge was set to design a ventilator that does all of the complicated things needed to keep someone alive, but is also easy to make in large numbers. Find out how the team set about designing a new approach, bringing together maths and science with engineering and medicine to help save lives. Discover how they created ‘JAMVENT’, and developed the tools to test it, by mimicking the physics of human lungs.

Cyber First: Staying smart and safe when everything is online

Whether it’s in a virtual classroom via video chat, or just hanging out or gaming with friends, we’re all spending more and more time online. Hear from a cyber expert – communicating via an on-screen avatar for security reasons – on how you can do all these things while keeping yourself (and your stuff) safe and secure.

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