Super start to Science Week in South West

1 April 2011

National Science & Engineering Week 2011 kicked off in the South West with a ‘Family Science Day’ at the Norman Lockyer Observatory (NLO) in Sidmouth, Devon on Saturday 12 March.

Credit: Alan Usher

Almost 450 children & adults came along and the Observatory was buzzing throughout the day! With a theme of “Communication ~ Are there aliens out there?” there was something going on to interest all ages.

The interactive “Hands-on Science” marquee run by an enthusiastic group of 6th-form students from Colyton Grammar School was extremely popular. They got visitors doing lots of different fun practical experiments and had everyone in the tent fired up about science.

The Rocket Competition was a particular hit. There was a constant stream of rocket designers having a go at making air rockets in the marquee then blasting them off from the launchpad.

5 Planetarium shows ran back to back throughout the day to cope with the constant demand. 

The more technical talks by Carol Boote (NLO Member) “Is there Anybody There?” and “The Search for Life in Space” Dr David Whitehouse (former BBC Science Correspondent) were well attended and engendered many questions from the audience. 

Story teller Mike O’Leary captivated a younger audience with his “Space Tales” accompanied by his Breton Pipes and Bagpipes in three storytelling sessions.

The Radio Group made contact with a New Zealand radio ham, and one NLO member even picked up a message from the International Space Station as it passed overhead, with just a small hand held receiver. 

The Telescope Domes were open and whilst the sun shone in the morning NLO volunteers were also able to show visitors sunspots and h-alpha activity using a heliograph.

The day was sponsored by the Institute of Physics South West. Many thanks to all the NLO volunteers, IOP members and staff from Colyton Grammar who worked so hard to organise a very succesful day.