About Us

Our Mission at Rubbish Science is a very simple: We aim to empower people by helping them develop systematic strategies for problem-solving to deal with issues that impact on their lives.  To become scientifically literate Using these skills and resources that are freely available from rubbish, they can improve the quality of their lives and that of their communities.  Many of our activities are potentially competitive – Whose tower is the tallest ?  Whose fly trap catches the most flies? We take huge pains to emphasise the winner is the person who has learned the most.

Our Vision is to create community hubs where skills and knowledge continue to be developed using our principles. These hubs will be connected via an online classroom in order to create a global network supporting communities. We aim to move from being instigators and tutors to facilitators and advisors.

 Our Aims are to empower the disempowered and to create self-sustaining communities. We expect that the greatest gains will be with those who are most vulnerable through war or poverty, but we will not restrict our attention to these people. We will know we have succeeded when we make ourselves redundant.

Our Values: Every human being is equally valuable and deserves to be treated respectfully and with kindness regardless of their race or religion.

Benefactors: Everyone can benefit from our activities and ways of thinking through problems. I would argue that Rubbish Science activities are better than the vast majority of what passes as Science in schools. Our projects are authentic, useful and have unknown outcomes. Scientific literacy is developed as people work systematically to optimise a solution that will provide food, water or something useful. Refugees and displaced persons are a particular target as you often have very talented and motivated people capable of taking these projects and developing them fully.

Our Delivery Strategy: We have developed workshops that can be delivered in a weekend that train people to follow a systematic route to problem solving. A series of activities that include building towers from newspaper to really understand the design process and thinking scientifically. This same process is repeated for other rubbish Science challenges such as: Make a bottle fly trap, build a solar still, create a watering system from plastic bottles, composting, bottle gardens etc.

These workshops can either be delivered to aid workers, teachers or community leaders in order for them to deliver the training to the communities. A ‘Train the Trainer’  workshop Alternatively the activities can be delivered directly to the communities themselves to give them ownership of it.  We currently have around 20 core activities and this number continues to grow. Workshops usually deliver about 10 of the ones most appropriate to the needs of the community. So, for example, Solar Stills are particularly appropriate for areas where fresh water is difficult to source but brackish or saline water is available. Due to potential risk factors of contamination we do not advocate using the solar stills for drinking water, but for plant watering and washing hands etc,

Other potential trainees are students in schools who are going on educational trips to developing nations. Currently many of these trips add little value to the communities they visit.  Students paint or build things that the locals can do for themselves.  Rubbish Science develops students into science communicators and can have real impacts on the locals by showing real projects that can be transformational. A very successful workshop was delivered at Aiglon College in Switzerland to a

group of students who were going to spend two weeks in an orphanage in Cambodia. The school paid for these  workshops which is a potential funding stream.

Potentially ,workshops could be delivered to people going on gap years to spread ideas in the communities they are van visiting. Links with travel companies could be created.

An issue that needs to be addressed is quality assurance. How can we ensure that the message that Rubbish Science is about journeys, not destinations. Learning is at the heart of everything we do.

What can you lose? One of the key points about Rubbish Science is the outcomes are nearly always positive. The ideal result is a great deal of learning and connecting with previous learning. The worst outcome is simply a fly trap that doesn’t work and the developer of the trap learning nothing from this failure. As the materials used are nearly all sourced from rubbish there is no financial expense in failure. In fact failure often creates  the best learning experience and these activities encourage pushing things to the limits.

Sustainability: Most of these projects should be self sustaining. Take for example a proposed project with the Zabaleen Tribe who live in Garbage City in Cairo and are the rubbish collectors. They are in a poverty trap as they sort rubbish and sell low value cardboard and PET plastics etc to be recycled. A possible project to enable them to grow high nutritional value crops to eat and sell is outlined:

  • Create compost from food waste and pig manure.
  • Make bottle gardens and plant spinach seeds
  • Eat/sell spinach plants
  • Keep growing some spinach plants to produce more seeds.
  • Use and sell the seeds

The total cost of materials for this project will be providing seeds and 3000 spinach seeds can be bought for £1! Everything else can be sourced locally for free.

I have met the leader of the Zabaleen collective and could run this project with support from the British International School in Cairo.  This project like most of the Rubbish Science ones is hugely scaleable. The only limitation is that of rubbish available and space.

Funding: Rubbish Science has been registered as  non profit CIC with me as a director. I have entirely self funded all of the projects so far and have done no fund raising.  I was waiting until I had developed materials and strategy more fully. 

Potential funding streams are:

  • Setting up something similar to https://www.donorschoose.org/ where people can support a project of their choice.  Social media is used to update donors on the project.  Or start a GoFundMe campaign.
  • Corporate sponsorship . I have potential support from Google to create a global Google Classroom connecting all people engaged in these projects.
  • Applying for funding through NESTA etc.
  • Schools paying for workshops
  • Joint projects with other aid organisations
  • I am setting up another non profit organisation called RevEdCPD that delivers training to teachers. It will be a CIC and any profits can be channelled to Rubbish Science

Background of Neil Atkin: I was born in Trinidad and spent my first ten years in the West Indies before my parents moved back to the UK. To Grimsby of all places !

I did a degree in Physics and also qualified as a Science Teacher an EFL Teacher, Tennis, Football and Hockey coach. I then travelled for about eight years around Asia and Africa teaching and coaching and working in various weird and wonderful jobs.

I qualified as one of the first Advanced Skills Teachers in Science, Maths and ICT and spent 10 years working in very challenging schools. This experience was crucial to my teaching science through relevant and engaging activities. I also qualified as a surf instructor, mountain bike leader, climbing instructor, power kite instructor and used these activities as mediums to teach science through.

I have been published in multiple science books for CGP, Hodder and Philip Allan. Some are here

I have worked for the Institute of Physics for eight years as a Teaching and Learning Coach in the South West Region. This involves teaching teachers more effective ways of delivering physics. During this time I have taught thousands of teachers but more importantly have learned so much from my colleagues,  some of the finest brains in science education. I co wrote a Physics of Football resource working with Arsenal FC that is published here

I am also a Gender Balance Officer for the IOP which involves amongst other things looking at unconscious bias and stereotyping. Our aim is to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups doing Physics.

As a self-employed Educational Consultant I have travelled the World working with some of the ‘best’ schools and some of the worst. When working with International Schools in developing nations I often do voluntary work in local schools. I have worked in rural schools in Nepal and Kenya as well as with Rohingya Refugees in Malaysia with the UNHCR.

I co-wrote and delivered Innovation Club activities for the Malaysian Government working with the British Council and supported by the Newton Fund. The pilot programme was so successful that we rolled it out to the whole country. Training Teachers on how to develop creative thinking. This work forms the basis of many of the Rubbish Science ideas.

I am well connected on social media with around 2000 connections on Linkedin wither 500 endorsements and nearly 5000 followers on Twitter. I regularly host the #ASEchat for the Association of Science Education.