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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday November 5, 2019

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Teddy Tablante

Teddy Tablante

Creator of Branch Educator Youtube Channel , Branch Education

portrait of Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Senior Project & Business Development Coordinator , Europeana Foundation

Bringing cultural heritage to life: an interview with the winner of the Europeana STEM Challenge

How do you engage students with the abstract concepts taught in STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) classes? By using Europeana Collections to create inspirational teaching resources! In this post we hear from Teddy Tablante from the Youtube channel Branch Education, whose videos on steam engines won this year’s Europeana STEM Challenge.

main image
Locomotive 3D model from How can steam drive this MASSIVE locomotive?
Teddy Tablante

What inspired you to participate in Europeana STEM Challenge?

While looking through Europeana Collections, I found amazing images of locomotives and steam engines which inspired me to make a set of videos.  The most mind-blowing image for me was a picture of the steam carriage patent from 1828.  The idea that this image from almost 200 years ago evolved into the modern-day car really cemented my realisation that engineering and history are intertwined and I wanted to share this idea with other people.

Why did you choose steam engines topic for your application? 

Steam engines are fascinating because they are a technology that has come and gone, yet they have dozens of descendant technologies that we use on a daily basis. I chose to do the first episode ‘The Engine that Ignited a Revolution’ on the Newcomen Engine (the world’s first steam engine) because in addition to exploring the concept of vaporisation, it provided an insight into what makes a technology revolutionary. 

I decided to do the second episode ‘How can steam drive this MASSIVE locomotive?’ on the traction engine (a self-propelled steam engine) because I wanted to provide students and viewers with an animated view of gas laws at work.  Gas laws are critical to engineering, but many students mix up how pressure, temperature, volume and number of molecules interact with one another. I wanted to provide an example of the laws in action in order to cement students’ understanding.

What were the most challenging aspects behind the creation of the video series?

The hardest aspects were finding accurate reference images so that I could properly model the different engines.  Specifically, the inside of the traction engine's cylinder and its slide valve were very hard to find, and even more difficult to model properly.  This is because images from the 1800s are very scarce, so it speaks to the breadth of Europeana’s resources that they had these available. Another challenge was learning to adapt my style in order to smoothly combine a history lesson with a science and engineering lesson.

A steam-driven carriage with passengers passes through the streets of a village as bystanders watch its progress.
Coloured process print after Pyall after G. Morton.
Wellcome Collection
United Kingdom

How do these videos support students’ learning?

It is difficult for students to learn and internalise concepts that they cannot visualise. I was always bad at remembering formulas and equations, but once I had an image in my mind for what was physically happening, I could derive the equation.  These videos help by providing visuals for concepts taught in school, especially concepts that are too small to see and nearly impossible to draw on a whiteboard.

How did winning the Europeana STEM Challenge contribute to your Youtube channel’s development? 

Winning the Europeana STEM challenge has expanded the scope of the videos I make. Before the challenge, I focused on videos detailing the inner workings of smartphones to advance students’ understanding of speakers and sound.  Winning this challenge inspired me to study steam engines, and after a few more videos on smartphones, I plan to produce more videos on steam and the physics related to temperature and gases.  

Winning the Europeana STEM challenge has also helped me to broaden my European audience. Until now, my audience on YouTube has predominantly been from India and the US.  However, as these two videos explore aspects of European history, European viewers will have a vested interest in watching them to learn about their own history and engineering.

Do you have future plans for Branch Education and video development?

Yes, there are a lot of videos in the pipeline.  The next episodes focus on printed circuit boards and quantum computers.  Following those, I'll get back to doing videos on temperature - including a short video on my favourite method for cooling down my morning tea, and why it is effective.  There is also a plan to work with some local science teachers to develop an activity on dissecting smartphones.  In addition to dissecting frogs or mice in biology, I hope that one day all students will also dissect smartphones to learn about engineering.

Share this fascinating video with your friends and encourage them to engage with the wonderful world of STEM!