Edinburgh Tynecastle High School: Pupils present sleep project at prestigious Royal Society event in London

Edinburgh school pupils invented sensor glove to measure heart rate
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A team of pupils from Edinburgh's Tynecastle High School have been showcasing their research on how exams affect sleep patterns at a prestigious Royal Society event in London.

The pupils, ranging in age from 13 to 17, invented a special glove which could measure heart rate and asked other pupils at the school to wear it on three different nights during prelims last November so they could monitor their sleep. They also gave out questionnaires. And after analysing all the data they concluded that exams did negatively impact sleep patterns, with pupils going to bed later and waking up more frequently.

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The Royal Society’s partnership grants scheme provided funding for the project, which the pupils named the Sleep Normality Observation Research Environment – or Snore for short. The idea of the scheme is to enable schools and colleges across the UK to devise and conduct their own research project, giving pupils hands-on experience in applying scientific methods to answer questions, design studies, and collect and analyse data. And now six of the 17 pupils involved the project over the past year have been presenting their work at the Royal Society’s annual Summer Science Exhibition in its Young Researchers Zone.

Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry with the Tynecastle High pupils at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition.Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry with the Tynecastle High pupils at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition.
Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry with the Tynecastle High pupils at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition.

The pupils – Alex Williams (S6), Caleb Robson (S6), Nida Patel (S4), Iain Williams (S4), Reych Reyes (S3) and Jayden John (S3) – were accompanied by computer science teacher Jan Holt and Emma Calderwood, curriculum lead on technology at Tynecastle. Mrs Calderwood said: "The pupils were answering questions from eminent scientists and professors, fielding questions from some real high-profile, very intelligent people, and holding their own. We're very proud of them.

“They decided what they wanted to look at and measure, but they then had to create a prototype of a piece of equipment that would allow them to do that. It's a glove that then had conductive thread sewn into it with a microbit that was taking the readings. We bought the gloves, put the sensors in, sewed the conductive thread to the sensors and then the microbit captured the readings. What they found was that pupils' sleep was negatively impacted by the exams, compared what good seep looks like.”

And she says the plan now is to build on the project’s findings. “As a school we’re going to continue that research, looking at sleep, and we're keen to extend it to a wider group of pupils across the school. We’re going to have workshops to help pupils to improve their sleep – we can’t change the exams, but if we can provide them with tools to get better quality sleep then hopefully they will be less impacted by exams.”

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Outside experts Dr Steve Bunce, a sleep educator and researcher, and Patrik Holt, a retired research professor of computing science, worked with the pupils to support the project And Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry met the pupils at the Summer Science Exhibition. She said: “It was great to meet students from Tynecastle showcasing their research. I was impressed by their scientific approach, teamwork, and enthusiasm which are a credit to their school and their teacher Jan Holt.”

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