Tektites, Time Travel and Tomatoes : it’s the Institute of Physics 3-Minute Wonder national final

19 May 2014 | Source: By: Mark Telling

On Thursday 15th May 2014, fourteen early career physicists, representing seven different IOP branches, massed in the Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Their brief? To ‘wow’ members of the general public by communicating their research as engagingly, yet concisely, as possible.

Tektites, Time Travel and Tomatoes : it’s the Institute of Physics 3-Minute Wonder national final

These budding researchers were all finalists in the IOP's national ‘3-Minute Wonder’ science communication competition - an event that challenges researchers in physics-related fields (industry or academia) to explain their work to the public in – you’ve guessed it – just three minutes.

The participants could use one slide, one video and as many props as necessary to publicise their work. Each contestant was scored by a panel of judges with points being awarded for physics content, presentation skill, level of engagement and entertainment value - but also deducted should the presentation finish significantly above or below the 3 minute mark!

The judging panel consisted of established science communicators – Steve Mould (scientist and comic, Festival of the Spoken Nerd), Lucie Green (writer, broadcaster and UCL solar scientist), Lindsay Keith (CEO, Refinery Productions Ltd) and Simon Singh (author, Fermat's Last Theorem) - whose insight and feedback about the art of science communication proved invaluable.

All presentations were highly entertaining and ranged from demonstrating how to ‘detect’ mechanical damage via a Mexican wave to impact crater creation using a vat of tomato ketchup! The winner and runner-up respectively was Hannah Wakeford (South West branch) who discussed alien atmospheres using stuffed toys and David Farmer (East Midlands branch) who relished demonstrating ‘the joy of hitting things!’ Congratulations to both.

This national IOP event would not have been such a success without inventive contributions from all contestants (both regional and at the final) nor realised without the generous support and effort of all participating branches, judges and the Institute of Physics and Royal Institution staff members. Thank you all.

Tektites, Time Travel and Tomatoes : it’s the Institute of Physics 3-Minute Wonder national final

The 3-minute wonder final contestants and judges. From left to right (back row): Giulio Pepe (East Anglia), Mike Hogan (North East), Mark Telling (LSE branch chair). Middle row: Robert Hughes (West Midlands), Natalie Garrett (South West), David Farmer (East Midlands), Emily Grace Williams (LSE), Matthew Millyard (East Anglia), Lucie Green (Judge), John McCrory (Wales), Simon Singh (Judge). Front row: Kyle Baldwin (East Midlands), Kelly Vaughan (LSE), Guanmei (Mona) Wang (North East), Michaela Nelson (West Midlands), Hannah Wakeford (South West), Lindsay Keith (Judge), Matthew Allen (Wales), Steve Mould (Judge)