Starting university? You need a mascot.
Oh dear, this first blog post is going to make me sound rather old! It is actually 40 years since I finished my A levels and was getting ready to start university at Keele (that's in Staffordshire - a small village immortalised with its own M6 motorway services named after it).
If you are one of the lucky ones to have been awarded a place there this year, I wish you all the best, and by the time you arrive, you should find something very special installed in the University Library. In pride of place just inside the main entrance will be - Herbert, the dragon. Now he really is old - over 100 years, and well worth preserving for posterity.
The owner of Keele Hall at the time of the dragon's creation was Ralph Sneyd, and a famous tenant from 1901-1910 was Grand Duke Michael of Russia, a cousin of the Tsar and a great friend of King Edward VII. Keele Hall and the gardens were used for many social occasions by their family at that time so this could explain why a pair of fanciful dragons might be installed to greet guests at the main door. Meanwhile they had a practical function in enabling visitors to scrape their muddy boots before entering the magnificent interior of Keele Hall. Grand Duke Michael had fond memories from the first 20 years of his life in Georgia where the enduring symbol in mythology is of St George slaying the plague-bearing dragon. The same symbol is on the coat of arms of Moscow. In nearby Newcastle under Lyme a historic pub, the George and Dragon, stands in the centre of the Ironmarket. To have the dragons made locally at the Apedale Ironworks would have been a symbol of respect for the local people.
Here's my slide show of Keele's magic dragons, breathing fire, flying through the air and generally being awe-inspiring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clJcTy_Ank4
Wait till you see the magic mirror inside Keele Hall itself though! A feat of engineering genius, combined with sheer fun.
For more science and engineering stories to inspire your students, do browse through my mini-videos at http://www.youtube.com/pinknonsense or my STEMNET profile at http://networking.stemnet.org.uk/users/81236. Maybe invite me to your school sometime soon as a Science & Engineering Ambassador.
I can be contacted via STEMNET or via my website, http://www.relax-well.co.uk.