With the same participants

Engaging Education with Binding Blocks

Project: Research project (funded)Research

Project participant(s)

Department / unit(s)


The present project is an STFC Leadership Fellowship in Public Engagement held by Dr C Aa. Diget. The project is focussed particularly on integrating Nuclear Physics within UK A-level (and equivalent) delivery of nuclear physics through the Binding Blocks programme. This is facilitated through large (100+ participant) Nuclear Masterclasses, Teacher Training, and smaller scale in-school teaching by team members and teachers. The programme furthermore includes university student training, both taught and "on-the-job" training, as well as an extensive internship programme. Through these influencers, we will implement Binding Blocks in schools using the nuclear chart to study cutting-edge research in nuclear science, linked with the secondary-school curriculum. This includes study of nuclear isotopes, nuclear decay, nuclear energy, and the astrophysical origin of the chemical elements we are made of. The face-to-face engagement is complemented by a Free Online Course which will be implemented both as a self-contained learning environment and integrated with the Nuclear Masterclass programme.

Layman's description

Through 'Engaging Education with Binding Blocks' we engage school students with cutting-edge STFC Nuclear Physics in an interactive inquiry-based approach. Binding Blocks centres around an interactive construction of a seven-metre nuclear chart of isotopes built of LEGO(R) bricks. Through engaging with the chart, participants get a hands-on experience of key areas of nuclear science, astrophysics, and energy. Binding Blocks is used with large audiences at public events or in smaller groups with schools. The entire chart can be built in half a day by hundreds of visitors, children and adults alike, or by 60 highly competitive teachers in half an hour of a training day. Alternatively, smaller versions of the chart can be integrated into a teaching session.

Key findings

The Binding Blocks project engages the public and young people with nuclear physics research. Activities centre on an 8m-long representation of the Nuclide Chart,2 built using over 25,000 LEGO® bricks.
Since 2015, just under 30,000 young people and members of the public have taken part in Binding Blocks events and more than 10,000 have watched educational promotional videos online.3
Furthermore, 375 undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers have taken part in Binding Blocks training. The project engages target audiences through a range of programmes:
1 Nuclear Masterclasses for A-level (or equivalent) students. Offered both in-person and online, these introduce the key concepts of nuclear physics before focussing on applications including nuclear astrophysics, fusion, and medical physics.
2 A school loans scheme comprised of a curriculum-linked LEGO® workshop for A-level (or equivalent) students.
3 Teacher CPD programmes (run in conjunction with the National STEM Learning Centre)
4 Exhibitions targeted at family audiences centred around the building of the LEGO® chart.
The project has been supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the University of York. To date, the Binding Blocks team have developed 23 partnerships with other universities and institutions in the UK and overseas.
The evaluation findings presented in this report are drawn from feedback provided by a sample 209 students attending face to face Nuclear Physics Masterclasses (2016-2019) and 388 young people taking part in an online Nuclear Physics Masterclass during June and July 2020.4
Short titleBinding Blocks
Effective start/end date1/09/1831/08/21


  • Public and Schools Engagement Impact

    Impact: Societal

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