Paul Curzon’s doing some Holiday Workshops for young people @Ri_science

Yellow background with black text advertising the names of the three workshop themes. Each theme has two workshops, one for kids age 7-9, one for kids age 10-12

The Royal Institution has a large series of STEM Holiday Workshops for young people, with sessions for different age groups. Paul Curzon is running six workshops over three days, each day having a theme, with a morning session for 7-9 year olds and the afternoon session for 10-12 year olds. Each place costs £35 (£29.75 for Ri Young Members. Financial support may be available from The Potential Trust (info in each link below).

Holiday workshops: The magic of computer science

Learn the logic of computing in this fun magic-based workshop.

In this workshop, Paul Curzon will demonstrate some real magic tricks and teach the group how they are done so they can do the tricks themselves.

When you learn to be a magician, it turns out you are learning the skills needed to be a great computer scientist too: computational thinking.

Students will then use the magic to learn the linked basics of computer science and see what computational thinking is all about and how both magicians and computer scientists rely on it.

[Magic workshop 1, age 7-9, 11am-1pm] [Magic workshop 2, age 10-12, 2-4pm]


Holiday workshops: AI, but where’s the intelligence?

Explore the basics of artificial intelligence in this hands-on workshop.

We all know the movie plot, evil robots and computers taking over the world, but what is the reality? We will explore artificial intelligence, the field of science that tries to build ‘thinking machines’. How are they built? Are they really intelligent? And what is intelligence anyway? We will also ask some interesting questions about a well-known ‘thinking machine’, you! Along the way we will play some games including building a working brain to play snap out of rope, tubes, and you.

[AI workshop 1, age 7-9, 11am-1pm] [AI workshop 2, age 10-12, 2-4pm]


Holiday workshops: Becoming a usability expert: Why are gadgets so hard to use?

Why are so many computer gadgets so hard to use? (especially, apparently, for parents!) It’s because most are poorly designed. To design gadgets better, programmers need to understand people not just technology. Usability experts, who do understand people including why we make mistakes, help programmers improve their designs. We will investigate bad designs and see why they are bad, explore what makes good design and look at how the experts use the science of how people think to make gadgets easier for everyone to use, setting you on the path to becoming a usability expert.

[Usability workshop 1, age 7-9, 11am-1pm] [Usability workshop 2, age 10-12, 2-4pm]


Other workshop topics (given by different people) include the following, and most have a couple of different versions of the session, stratified by audience age. See the full list of holiday workshops (and talks).

  • Forensics
  • ScratchMaths – coding with maths
  • The mathematics of rainbows
  • Anamoprhic art
  • Where is engineering?
  • Geometry, code and embroidery
  • Extract your own DNA
  • Chases and escapes (curvy maths)
  • How big is the universe?
  • The magic of computer science – itemised above
  • AI, but where’s the intelligence – itemised above
  • Making music and sound with BBC Micro:bit
  • Magnets and motors
  • Intro to the BBC Micro:bit
  • Stories from maths
  • Mathematics for astronomers
  • Loudspeakers and acoustics
  • Becoming a usability expert: Why are gadgets so hard to use? – itemised above
  • Fantastic plastic
  • Bacterial evolution
  • Building with STIXX
  • Electrical circuits
  • Drawing Islamic geometry
  • Mathemagics
  • Cosmetic chemistry
  • Skateboards to starships (laws of motion)
  • Mathemagics
  • Networks (Euler)


Binary Bunting Flags – ‘write’ your name’s initial letter in binary ^JB

We thought you might like to make some computing-themed bunting based on binary representations of letters – specifically the first letter of your name, in bunting flags. What with 2022 being the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we will probably be seeing rather a lot of bunting* this year, might as well join the fun :)

The letter ‘J’ in binary


You can print our ready-made flags below or just create your own. All you need is a triangle as the face of whatever you want on your flag, but don’t forget to add a little ‘flap‘ at the top which will fold over the string or thread (you can glue or sellotape it to stop it sliding around).

If you print ours you’ll need a printer, paper, scissors, glue / sellotape and some thread, string or ribbon.
If you make your own you’ll need everything above minus the printer but plus pencils / pens.

The alphabet, in binary

A table showing the binary code in 8 bit for each capital letter, A to Z. E is 01000101 and T is 01010100. A fuller range of lower case letters and numbers can be found at ScienceFriday.

Each person will need 8 flags per letter with the number of 1s and 0s depending on the initial of their first name or nickname. I’m Jo so I’d need three flags with 1 on and five with 0 on them. I’d also need to put them in the right order to ‘spell’ the letter J – 01001010. For example I could also spell the letters L or Q with the same flags by rearranging the order. There will be other ‘binary buddies’ where the same eight flags could spell more than one letter.

Don’t forget that binary 1s and 0s can be represented by any pair of things, so you could different colours (red and black bunting, or maybe blue and yellow) or different shapes (triangle and square bunting), or anything you like!


Printable Binary Bunting flags

The .pptx files below were created on a Mac computer and are editable. In case they appear differently on Windows computers I’ve added a PDF copy as well.

  1. Blank bunting flags, 3 to an A4 sheet (PDF)
  2. Binary bunting flags (half with 0 on, half with 1 on), 3 to an A4 sheet (PDF)
  3. Binary bunting midi flags (half with 0, half with 1), 6 to an A4 sheet (PDF)
  4. Binary bunting mini flags (50% 0, 50% 1), 10 to an A4 page (PDF)
  5. Raw .svg file of blank bunting flag (you can use a free program like Inkscape to edit this, or any vector-graphics editing program).


*small flags, usually fabric, strung together as a decoration