Public Engagement Grant Scheme

2014 Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Round 1

Jane Cutler, Buckinghamshire Federation of Women’s Institutes (BFWI)
Investigation and Discovery
The Women’s Institute was started in1915 with the aim of educating women. Unfortunately science has not been an educational opportunity which has been well received in Buckinghamshire. We are organising a day devoted to science, with speakers passionate about their subjects, to coincide with the national science week in March.

The following speakers have agreed to represent physics:

  • Dr John Methven, Reader in Atmospheric Dynamics, Dept of Meteorology University of Reading. He will talk about the weather.
  • Professor Caroline Crawford, Outreach Officer at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge and Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College. She will speak on “A Voyage Round Saturn, its Rings and Moons”

Emma Dodds and Charlotte Hale, Flux Dance Theatre
The Third Law
The Third Law is a dance- theatre piece inspired by the physics and movements of a Newton’s Cradle. The work oscillates around societal relationships and questions how they could be linked to, or further still, dictated by - the basic laws of physics. A metaphor is created on stage using the simple image of a Newton’s Cradle, exploring how the balance of power continually shifts in society, as -like a Newton’s Cradle -reaction follows certain and predictable reactions. The role of art is to reflect reality and reveal universal truths. One constant truth is the fact we are monopolized by these scientific laws. Flux seeks to put these observations in theatrical form whilst also providing high-quality educational workshops for GCSE and A Level students. Our aim is to foster and encourage further interest in STEM subjects, particularly Physics, through our interactive dance workshops and dance theatre performance.

Jon London, Out of this World Learning
Festivals Circuit
Out of this World Learning is small company with 2 employees that run science workshops in schools. We want to take our workshops and interactive display pieces out of the classroom and into the community at events such as local science festivals, village fates, science fiction conventions and other meetings where we would not be able to go. We are especially keen to get to events that you would NOT expect to see real science, but where the audience would be receptive, such as science fiction conventions, cosplay events etc. Last year there were several events we attended, in an unfunded capacity. We would love to be able to go again, but transport costs in particular make it prohibitively expensive to attend all of the events we are invited to.

Dominic McDonald, Science Oxford
Undercover Physics
Undercover Physics will engage 300 families with the physics underlying their everyday lives. On 8 March 2014, at the launch event for the 2014 Oxfordshire Science Festival (OSF), 10 local shops will display a showcard illustrating an aspect of physics relevant to their business: in the case of a cafe, heating and cooling; in the case of a jeweller, the formation of heavy metals inside supernovae.

The launch event for OSF attracts around 5000 people, 80-90% of whom are not visiting specifically to take part. It is therefore an excellent way of engaging with audiences who do not usually take part in science activities. A small prize will be offered to families that complete the trail.

Showcards will be double sided. On one side will be an equation and 50 words of text; on the other side will be a professionally produced cartoon illustrating the process. The project is based on a similar “Undercover Chemistry” project in at the launch of OSF2013, which saw 200 families take part.

Beth Mortimer, Oxford Silk Group
SILK interactive stand at the Big Bang Fair
This grant will help us to fund an interactive exhibit for two days at the Big Bang Fair 15th and 16th March 2014 at the NEC in Birmingham. This is a huge-scale science fair, where 35000 people are expected to visit over the weekend, expected to be mainly families. Presented by researchers from the Oxford Silk Group, the SILK interactive stand is divided into exhibits on silkworms and spiders, combining hands-on activities, expert demonstrators and the animals themselves.

The aim of the stand is to raise awareness of how different scientific disciplines can work together to influence future technologies. In particular our stand uses silk research as an excellent example the value gained by combining physics, biology and engineering. We will highlight both the benefits of physics and physical sciences approaches to biology – for example quantifying the mechanical properties of silk using hands-on tensile testing. Additionally, we also highlight the value of natural diversity for understanding energy efficient physical processes which can be harnessed for everyday life. For example, another hands-on activity involves making and testing silk-based composite plates - a ‘green’ energy absorbing material that one day may be found in protective clothing, or even a car body.

We support these activities with science-trained demonstrators - a mix of silk experts and trained student volunteers from a range of scientific backgrounds. We encourage participation with eye-catching presentation of the live animals and silk structures, and will have ‘goodies’ and information leaflets to take-away from the stand.

Hiran Patel, Social Steam Engine Community Association
Social Steam Engine Wellbeing and Science Workshop
We aim to make physics accessible to the most vulnerable in our society who are excluded from learning about and enjoying physics. Specifically we will target service users of social care services and their carers, living in Wolverhampton in a fun and innovative way to explore the role of non –medical, non -biological and non -psychological science in improving individual and community wellbeing

We plan to target Black Minority Ethnic individuals accessing statutory or third sector social care services in Wolverhampton but the event will be open to all service users and carers regardless of BME status.

The workshops will take place between April and August 2014 at the Brickkiln Street Community Centre Wolverhampton West Midlands. We are planning to host 4 activity workshops around physics of linking the physics of colour, gravity, astronomy and motion  to individual wellbeing

The astronomy workshop for example will centre around making a basic telescope using refuse and magnifying glasses, leading onto a discussion about day and night and why and how service users are excluded from enjoying the night sky and how contemporary physics could help reduce that exclusion.

Xanthe Pitt, Ramsgate Town Team
 “…the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”
Here in Ramsgate we want to bring enriching educational opportunities to people who would not usually have the opportunity to take advantage of them by weaving them into the fabric of their everyday experience. Over a two day period people going about their weekday shopping in Ramsgate Town Centre will find a pop-up planetarium, supplied by the University of Kent and installed temporarily within an empty shop has appeared within their shopping parade. The shop front will have been decorated in a high quality, imaginative way by local artists and will have been advertised for some time in advance through posters, local press and social media. Shoppers can wander in; listen to an accessible and interactive talk about the night sky given by a physicist. They will be told about the relevance of astronomy to their everyday lives by hearing, for example, about the recent meteor in Russia and the Comet ISON. They will be told about current research going on in Kent University, only twenty minutes away on the train, and will be given a ‘planisphere’  to enable them to identify the stars and planets for themselves – something that they can do at any time at no cost and share with their friends and families. They will have been introduced to astronomy without having had to step out of their ordinary lives.

4 shows per day will be given over two days. The planetarium has the capacity for an audience of 30 people. Public liability insurance etc will of course be obtained and all necessary health and safety requirements will be complied with.

Richard Robinson, Brighton Science Festival
Moog Music
The invention of the Moog synthesizer 50 years ago, in 1964 will be commemorated by some hands-on activities for 11+ aged children and families.  The project will introduce people to some aspects of electricity, and then allow them to play with them and create very simple electronic machines, specifically a musical instrument. The activities can be timed (up to 30 at a sitting) or drop-in, and can be adapted for class use, linking to the Key Stage 3 curriculum. (NC 3.1 Energy, electricity and forces). These will be presented at the Brighton Science Festival half term workshops Feb 22-23 2014 in the Brighton Youth Centre. The workshop leads to an understanding of electrical resistance, capacitance and the nature of sound.

Participants construct an electric organ from resistance wire, capacitors, oscillators and speakers. Before doing that, and in order to understand the processes, they make: a simple capacitor from paper (dielectric) and kitchen foil (plates); a simple sound generator from a piece of paper; a simple variable resistor from a pencil. They study: the nature of resistance and how a capacitor works using a water analogy; the connection between resistance, heat and incandescent light bulbs, using resistance wire; and the convenience of a commercial resistor over loose resistor wire.

Then they apply that knowledge to some simple equipment to make music, perhaps playing a tune together in harmony.

Paul Smith, Youth Hostel Association Llanddeusant
Physics at Llanddeusant Youth Hostel
There are many people who want to access physics activities at primary school age but the schools often do not have the expertise & equipment.  I aim to provide these for small groups (max 20) and to allow for them to explore the activities and be able to stay at the hostel late enabling them to experience stargazing (the hostel is in a Dark Skies area, (Western Brecon Beacons).  The activities I am putting together are designed to be affordable & can be delivered in a variety of settings, if the weather is not good enough for rockets, they can become drag racers indoors, if it is too cloudy for using the telescopes, the group can create lighting for model houses. 

Once this scheme is running I will aim to create duplicate activities at other youth hostels throughout the UK network.  This will enable ‘physics camps’ style breaks to be run at costs that are affordable as the hostels offer budget family accommodation.

Nicky Thomas
Wonders of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
To celebrate the innovative world firsts achieved in Malvern at QinetiQ and its predecessors over the years, Malvern Library will host an Electromagnetic Spectrum and Physics Imaging day, to appeal to a wide range of backgrounds and age groups. This event is planned for September so we are in the early stages of planning. We intend to repeat similar events - potentially annually and in different venues in the region.

The event will include hands-on, drop-in workshops based around the EM spectrum using demonstrations and activities. Participants can make, and take away, devices or items related to imaging and the EM spectrum.

Several interactive and engaging talks will explain the physics behind such groundbreaking inventions as thermal imaging, RADAR, liquid crystal displays, LIDAR, millimetre wave imaging given by imaging specialists.

In the main library, a fixed online display, posters and a display of equipment and related objects will give information about imaging innovations and uses of the electromagnetic spectrum for imaging.

Kevin Walker and Karin von Ompteda, Royal College of Art
Data Physicalisation
We aim to render physics data in new physical, spatial, multisensory and experiential forms, in a month-long project with MA students at the Royal College of Art, then display the results in a public exhibition.

We have run similar projects so far, using urban data and social statistics; some of the results can be seen at This project will be our first opportunity to use data from the physical sciences. It takes place in March 2014, and the resulting projects will be produced by the students at the RCA in collaboration with physics PhD students from Imperial College London. The selected works will be unveiled at a public event - date and venue soon to be announced

Related information

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2013

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2012

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2011

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2010

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2009

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2008

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2007

Public Engagement Grant Scheme

Projects funded in 2006