Innovative outreach projects win grants from the IOP

20 January 2017

Generating art with the help of quantum technology, engaging marginalised groups in building and using their own telescopes and bringing a rare 180-year-old sundial to public view are some of the projects that will go ahead this year with the help of grants from the IOP.

Innovative outreach projects win grants from the IOP
Joshua Silverstone

Each has received a £2,000 public engagement grant from the Institute, as have a project to run the first-ever science festival in Ross-shire, a series of radio broadcasts and online resources for children on the science of Christmas, and a documentary and art installation on dark matter, as well as a project to run workshops on the science behind hula hoops during the Glasgow Science Festival.

Leaders of the seven projects applied to the IOP’s Public Engagement Grant Scheme and were chosen among nearly 100 applicants in the current round. The scheme provides grants of up to £2,000 to individuals or organisations running physics-based outreach activities in the UK or Ireland.

Johanna Kieniewicz, the IOP’s head of outreach and engagement, said: “We received an exceptionally high standard of applications for our grant scheme this year, and it was difficult to narrow our choices down to just seven.

“It’s very promising to see so many projects addressing a wide range of topics in physics and using such innovative and inspiring methods to engage with their audiences. These projects all position physics as part of our culture and communities, and as something to which we can all connect. I look forward to following these projects as they develop and am excited to expand our reach and bring physics to more and more people across the UK.”

Among those receiving grants, the Quantum Computer Art project is a collaboration between scientists from the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol and the Systems Research Group at the Royal College of Art (RCA). Led by Dr Libby Heaney, a tutor at the RCA who has a background in quantum science research, it involves making art generated by or with the help of early-stage quantum technology, including some four-qubit quantum computing chips, quantum key distribution and quantum sensing devices. The artworks will be exhibited to the public in Bristol and London and will be presented at an event at the V&A in May.

As part of its Stargazer project, the Black and Minority Ethnic Housing Consortium in Wolverhampton will be running a series of 15 workshops for people to learn how to build and use their own telescopes, which will be showcased at a local science fair later in the year. The workshops will be aimed primarily at people from marginalised groups including minority communities, refugees, asylum seekers and those with learning disabilities or mental health issues.

Innovative outreach projects win grants from the IOP

A rare timekeeping device based at the Bromley House Library in Nottingham will be exhibited in a display at the library for the first time and livestreamed on the internet. The Bromley House Meridian sundial is one of just three surviving meridian sundials in the UK and is one of the oldest, dating from 1834. For most of its history it was hidden under carpet, and though unveiled in 1998, little has previously been done to highlight its significance. The project is led by Dr Daniel Brown, a senior lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, and a team of physicists.

Strathpeffer Community Association in the Scottish Highlands will be running a Sound and Vision Festival on 18 March. It will explore the science behind echolocation, acoustics, electromagnetic radiation and other phenomena through talks, displays, performances and hands-on activities led by researchers and industry experts. Local volunteers will be helping to run the event, the first-ever science festival in Ross-shire.

Innovative outreach projects win grants from the IOP

A series of daily radio broadcasts on the Fun Kids radio channel explored the science around Christmas during the festive season in December 2016 and early January 2017. Aimed at children aged seven to 12, the series included some physics-based material including how Santa’s sleigh can get off the ground, the best way to create sticky tape, why Rudolph’s nose shines and which other animals glow. Audio files and online material has been created and is co-owned by the IOP.

Innovative outreach projects win grants from the IOP

A documentary film on dark matter, 95% Unknown, is being made and is planned to be shown in an audio-visual exhibition later in the year. The film covers topics such as bullet clusters, particle collisions, the Higgs boson and supersymmetric particles, and will include interviews with physicists working in the field.

Glasgow Hula Hoop, a fitness venture, is collaborating with the Glasgow Science Festival to run workshops during the festival in June. These will cover the science behind the perfect hula hoop and enable participants to design their own as well as to perform with the hoops. The activity is aimed particularly at young people aged 13–16.