Department of Physics and Astronomy

Schools lab

The University of Sussex Schools Lab programme aims to provide enrichment and extension activities in a university environment for students studying GCSE, AS or A2-level Physics at school or college.

Schools are invited to bring groups of up to 12 (10 preferred) students to spend a day at Sussex doing experiments directly related to their Physics syllabus. The students work in groups of two or three and the experiments provide sufficient challenge for the most able students.

The days are designed and run by David Daniels, a Visiting Research Fellow and award winning physics teacher.

Please note that:

  • The day of experiments is free to schools.
  • The lab is suitable for up to 12 students (10 prefered)
  • All work is strongly related to the Physics syllabus.
  • Separate labs for GCSE, AS and A2, and all three labs are available at any time.
  • Provides a sufficient challenge for the most able students.
  • Risk assessment for all experiments are available on request.
  • Parking is free for your school or college minibus.
  • Highly experienced sixth-form physics teacher in charge.
  • More than 1,000 students have been already, with excellent feedback (sample included).
  • No need for an accompanying teacher for A-level students, and the teacher visiting is free to take advantage of campus facilities whilst the lab is in progress; however teachers are welcome to stay with their students if they wish.
  • Any students 16 years of age or younger must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Students in their A2 year are welcome to attend the AS lab to help with their synoptic paper.
  • Any missing knowledge is topped up by David Daniels as required, particularly in relation to Young's modulus.

A typical day

Note that the start and finish times can be varied to suit individual schools.

10:00 – Meet at the entrance to the Physics & Astronomy Department (Pevensey 2 building), before heading to our outreach lab for an introduction and walk through of the experiments.

10.30  Break

10.50  A research lecture by a member of the department (for AS & A2 level students), or a careers talk by one of our undergraduates or postgraduates (for GCSE students)

11.20  Schools Lab Experiments

12.15  Teaching and research lab Tour

12.40  Lunch (and a chance to explore the University campus)

13.30  Experiments continue

15.00  End of day


The Experiments

During the day, the students will do the following experiments:

For A2-level students

  • Glowing Nodes
  • Ballistic Pendulum
  • Materials Design Challenge
  • Conductivity & Resistance
  • Transformers & Superconductors
  • Oil Film Experiment: Determining the Size of an Atom (on request)
  • Levitating Balls
  • Finding the Half-Life of a radioactive isotope of Barium(137)

For AS-level students

  • Alien Bomb Box (electronic switches)
  • Acceleration due to Gravity
  • Materials Testing: Stress & Strain
  • Pearls in Air
  • The Monkey & Hunter
  • Wavelength, Wave Speed and Frequency

For GCSE students

  • Seeing Radiation in Cloud Chambers
  • Density of Air
  • Speed of Light
  • Speed of Sound in Metals
  • Waves with Trolleys

Please note that we are flexible, and so can offer an alternative if you already do a particular experiment at your school or college.

Availability & booking

If you wish to visit the schools lab, please check our online calendar for lab availability, and when you have found a convenient date, just contact us via the details on the bookings page.

Comments from previous visiting schools

'Sussex University Schools Lab stimulates enthusiasm for physics, not always an easy thing to achieve! Students have an opportunity to perform experiments which are either too expensive or too dangerous to carry out in school, using equipment which is not normally available to them. The guest speakers offer direct experience of research in topical areas of physics and engineering and give students a flavour for the possibilities and excitement of careers in these subjects. The experience of being able to just spend a day around a modern university campus gives students an early insight of what university life can be like. Very highly recommended for all A level physics students.'

Julian Curtoys, Angmering School

'I extend my thanks to the two researchers from the Physics Department who spoke to my students at the Schools Lab. They were both very stimulating and interesting and pitched their talk at exactly the right level; the Powerpoint presentation was also helpful. I would also like to thank David Daniels who put together an excellent set of activities, looked after us very well and ensured that the whole day was both educational and enjoyable. The ten students I brought gained considerably from attending the lab and in addition I think the chance to visit a university was useful to them in deciding what to do after A levels – the majority having now chosen physics or engineering university courses. I will certainly be repeating the event with this year's Physics students.'

Chris Brooks, Uckfield Community College