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Ayr Academy physics teacher on course for top award

A physics teacher at Ayr Academy has been nominated for the prestigious TES 'Science Teacher of the Year' award.

Katrena McDonald involved her team of S4 pupils in the 'TimPix' project which helps monitor radiation levels for British astronaut Tim Peake who is currently on board the International Space Station.

Katrena McDonald involved her team of S4 pupils in the ‘TimPix’ project

The pupils track the radiation levels Tim is exposed to on a daily basis by downloading data direct from NASA. Since receiving the initial data in January this year, the students are deepening their knowledge of radiation particles and detectors.

They have also learned data analysis skills and the benefits of team working which fits in well with the school curriculum.

After submitting their initial findings, the students were asked to attend and present their findings at the National Science Centre in London.

Science teacher Katrena McDonald has gone out of her way to deliver the best experience possible for the students, even giving them the opportunity of a life time to work with Glasgow University Physics & Astronomy Department and Dr Helen Mason from Cambridge University who specialises in Solar Physics. Dr Mason will now visit Ayr in September, to share areas of her work with all South Ayrshire senior physics students.

Ayr Academy Head Teacher Kate McDonald said: "Katrena McDonald has been an inspiration, doing everything possible to expand the learning of the pupils involved in the project. She has supported the students every step of the way and let them take the lead as they got their teeth into this exciting and engaging project.

"We are very proud of her achievement so far and the students have been fantastic, excelling as ambassadors for Ayr Academy and South Ayrshire.

Comments from some of the students include:

Fedor Vasilyev said "I have learned a lot about sorting and analysing data and how to share and present our findings with my peers and specialists in this field."

Suman Bhattarai said "I really enjoyed learning about the types of radiation and how they change as the space station navigates round the earth."

Heather Devaney: "It has helped me be more confident in talking to others, and I really enjoyed the teamwork".


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