We spoke to Shane McCracken, Falling Walls Engage Winner 2018, about his project and how the Falling Walls Engage Pitches helped to increase the visibility of his project.

 

What is your project about?

I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here is a student-led, online STEM engagement activity that connects schools students and scientists across the world.

The format of the project helps improve the equality of provision of schools science engagement. Being online means all schools get the same experience of being able to connect with a diverse range of scientists. The informal text-based nature allows every student in a class to be properly engaged and not just the usual confident students.

The project has a student Impact Model based on the Science Capital Teaching Approach.

What made you start this project and how did Falling Walls Engage and its community contribute to the further development of your project?

The project started in 2008 as a spin off from a democratic engagement project called I’m a Councillor, Get me out of here. We started the project because reports in the UK at the time spoke about the deficit model and the significant barriers between science and the public.

The Falling Walls community has been an excellent validation for what we do.

"The mission has always felt to be about bringing people together to share knowledge and experience."

Shane McCracken

Falling Walls Engage Winner 2018

In which Falling Walls Engage format did you participate?

I entered the project into Falling Walls Engage in 2018 and was delighted to win that year alongside Francesca Frakgoudi. During the lockdown I got involved in a few of the events organised by the team, including the Falling Walls Engage Cup!

 

Did the Falling Walls Engage formats facilitate the contact to other projects for collaborations?

We have been exploring collaborations that have yet to come to fruition. For example, we worked with Falling Walls alumni from India to try to get I’m a Scientist started there.
Other connections made through the IYSE have been promising, but yet to bear fruit. There is normally great enthusiasm for collaboration, but the follow through is harder.

 

Did you experience an increase in visibility of your project through the collaboration with Falling Walls Engage?

Undoubtedly, the visibility of the project has improved, but it is not easy to measure or point to clear examples as the project was already well-known in the UK. Visibility is not a binary measurement. Winning Falling Walls Engage added prestige to the project. Award winning brings kudos. International Award Winning brings additional kudos.

 

What makes Falling Walls Engage unique to you?

Science Engagement sometimes suffers from being focused on the very local. In the UK much Science Engagement is carried out by universities with a local civic agenda. It means much of the country and world miss out. Falling Walls Engage has had a global outlook from the beginning.

The mission has always felt to be about bringing people together to share knowledge and experience. No-one else is working on the same scale and breadth of Science Engagement.

"It is an opportunity for anybody, from those just starting their career, to those at the top of the tree to connect with each other, to learn from each other, to enthuse each other."

Shane McCracken

Falling Walls Engage Winner 2018

What was your most emotional experience when you think about your collaboration with Falling Walls Engage?

In 2018, the finalists and jurors were mingling over drinks after the award ceremony. I was taking some time out chilling in the corridor. I was chatting with a young German web designer who had been in the audience. A Jury member was there too, just finishing a phone call. He had just received some very good funding news for his organisation.

For the next 30 minutes, the jury member spent time chatting with me and the designer. Chatting about family, career and Science Engagement. Most people receiving such good news would have been off to celebrate, but not this jury member.

For me that sums up the Falling Walls Engage experience. It is an opportunity for anybody, from those just starting their career, to those at the top of the tree to connect with each other, to learn from each other, to enthuse each other.