Ed Thomas, PhD student on the CoG3 project, explains the importance of cobalt to a group of school children in Manchester.
As a Widening Participation Fellow I am often involved with outreach events encouraging school children in to science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. My workshops are usually based on an aspect of Earth Sciences that the children have come across before; the rock cycle, dinosaurs, volcanoes…However, the most engaging part of science is not what we already know, but the unsolved problems we face as a society. It is one of these unanswered questions I posed to year 9 children from four schools in Greater Manchester.
On 3 February, sixty pupils attended a Gateway’s Day at the University of Manchester where I ran a workshop discussing the importance of my research for the CoG3 project.
The main aim of the session was to introduce children to the idea of sustainability and security of supply of certain minerals. We discussed which metals are used in smartphones, where these metals come from, and why China dominates the smartphone production industry.
For most of the children this issue of where the materials in their smartphones come from was something they hadn’t thought about before.
The session finished in an engaging debate on alternative sources of minerals and metals including whether or not the seafloor or asteroids are potential solutions in the future.
The children all agreed upon the importance of creating a sustainable and secure supply of metal resources for the UK in the future, and hopefully many of them were inspired to pursue a career in Earth Sciences to help us find an answer to how we will ensure one.
The CoG3 (Cobalt: Geology, Geometallurgy and Geomicrobiology) consortium is investigating the recovery of cobalt, a metal of great strategic and economic importance. Follow them on Twitter.