Ahoy there! This is not a wind-up

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Gregor Steele sang along to The Proclaimers en route to an induction visit at his new workplace

To celebrate landing a job as an education support officer in Dunfermline, I decided I should either learn the poem Sir Patrick Spens or stage my own personal The Skids revival. In the end, the Seventies throwback in me won and, rather than Anon's king "drinking blood-red wine", it was Richard Jobson's somewhat less penetrable "Into the Valley" poetry that ended up going through my head. "Ahoy! Ahoy! Land, sea and sky!"

It took me rather longer than I had intended to carry this off. My 100 per cent legally downloaded digital album refused to acquire a licence.

Customer support helped, but Windows Media Player subsequently failed to find my CD burner. Another application found the CD writer and seemed to be contentedly creating a disc, one that proved to have all the merits of a shop-bought CD, bar the presence of sound. When I got The Skids on to my MP3 player, the adapter thing that lets me play it through my car stereo broke.

Thus, my first week or so of commuting to Fife was backed by Radio Scotland and an old Big Country tape.

The radio must have had a subconscious effect on me. I was talking to someone about A Curriculum for Excellence and came up with the idea that the BayGen wind-up radio would be worthy of study. "Hardly original!" I hear fellow physicists cry.

This is the time to go further, to get all cross-curricular. Behind the wind-up radio is the story of Trevor Baylis, an inventor and pipe-smoker.

Apparently, he heard a news report about HIVAids in the Third World.

People were dying because of a lack of information. Radio would be an ideal medium by which advice could be shared. But how can you use a radio in a place with neither a mains supply nor a source of batteries?

Baylis saw a social problem and solved it through science. Children love a story, and how much more interesting is the BayGen radio when you know the story behind it. If all goes well in the next couple of years, we may be teaming up with our social subjects buddies to tell stories of science in context.

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