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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2008

Projects summaries from previous winning applications

Janice Barton, University of Southampton

Sensing Tapestry Deterioration

Art conservators, physicists and engineers have been working together to investigate the strain in historic tapestries. As part of this research, the University of Southampton have integrated sensors into a newly designed tapestry to help assess deformation and inform conservation decisions. This tapestry will be displayed at INTECH hands-on science and technology centre in Winchester in October. Text boards will be developed to help explain this piece of research and describe the concept of strain as a measure that indicates condition and levels of deterioration.

Cathy Batt, University of Bradford

Science of the Past

On 12 March 2008 the University of Bradford will be inviting visitors to explore the many scientific techniques behind modern archaeology. The event will investigate a range of scientific techniques such as the use of electrical and magnetic measurement to detect buried remains, and using X-rays to reveal archaeological objects. Although the event is open to all, there are two specific target audiences; 14 – 16 year olds who find science intimidating and members of the local archaeological societies.

Catherine Beddoe, The BA

Wales in Space

This summer the BA will work with experts in space robotics to engage family visitors at the National Botanic Garden in Wales with the physics and wider issues behind UK space robotics. Visitors will take part in a number of activities which include a mobile planetarium to explore the solar system, and building a Mars Rover to race against fellow visitors across a Martian-Welsh terrain. These activities will encourage visitors to think about the conditions in space, why we would want to explore it and why robotic exploration is desirable. These activities will be held over one weekend when the National Botanic Garden receives an average of 1,200 visitors.

Ben Brown and Shaaron Leverment, Explorer Dome

Parents in the Planetarium – After School Science for Mums and Dads

During spring/summer 2008, Explorer Dome will be giving Mums and Dads the opportunity to take part in entertaining and educational after school planetarium sessions. As well as touring the night sky, adults will be able to discuss modern advances in astronomy, latest mission updates, the astronomical origin of astrology, the possibility of alien life and the ultimate fate of the Earth, Sun and Universe. This project aims to reach 250 adults in less well off areas of the southwest of England.

Steve Conway, Schools’ Science Festival

Primary Collisions

This project is designed to explain the reasons behind the construction of the LHC to upper primary children through demonstrations and practical activities in class. The children then convey their knowledge and enthusiasm to their parents or relatives who help the children with a short home project on the LHC.

Elizabeth Crilly, SETPoint Cambridgeshire

The Physics of Kite Flight

SETPoint Cambridgeshire will be holding a family event exploring the Physics of Kite Flight at Cambridge Science Festival on 15 March 2008. The event allows the visitors to investigate different models of kites on display, and learn about the physics behind them through display boards. The families then have an opportunity to make a choice of small model kites to test out on site.

Ally Davies, Netherhall School

Smashing Particles! – Let’s celebrate the LHC

A group of pupils at Netherhall will partner with particle physics researchers in a project coinciding with the start up of the LHC at CERN in 2008. Pupils will carry out investigations showing how particles can be tracked and will research several classic particle physics experiments and ideas about subatomic structure that have developed from them. The pupils will then give presentations on their work to other GSCE science classes and will have their own stand during the 2008 Science Festival at the Cavendish Laboratory open day.

Pete Edwards, Durham University

Dinosaurs from Dust – The World’s Most Powerful Particle Smasher

Dinosaurs from Dust is a hands-on show which describes the LHC project at CERN. The show targets families, the wider community and local primary schools. The presentation has been written specifically with this audience in mind and features interactive demonstrations and audience participation. The show draws an analogy between the life and times of the dinosaurs and the ‘zoo’ of now extinct particles in the early universe to explain how particle physics works.

Simon Elliott, Tyndall National Institute

D.I.Y. Symmetry

Symmetrical patterns are all around us, including in science such as crystalline materials, chiral molecules and particle physics. Through this project, 8 – 14 year olds and public audiences will be able to explore symmetry by doing it themselves. Hands-on activities will include printing wallpaper with sponge cut-outs and tiling a patio with hundreds of coloured squares. The activities will be delivered in November at the Discovery exhibition in Cork, and through Tyndall’s schools’ workshops during Science Week Ireland.

Rachel Feldberg

Otley Science Festival

From 17 to 22 November, Otley will be hosting its first ever science festival, an inspiring, week-long science celebration for adults, young families and children. Among the many events throughout the week there will be a workshop investigating the principles of sound in ‘How does my instrument work?’, a family physics lecture about ‘The man who tamed steam’ and a day long science fair with participatory experiments and demonstrations. Otley Science Festival expect to reach 1,200 people throughout the week.

Laura Grant and Robert Clack Science College

The Robert Clack Junk Band

In early summer 2008, 30 year nine students from Robert Clack Science College will be investigating the role of physics in making music. They will start with a workshop involving the physics of ‘instruments’ such as tea chest bass, straw oboes, clucking cups and a theremin. The class will then devote subsequent science lessons to researching the physics behind their chosen instrument, and their music lessons to composing a piece of music using junk and traditional instruments. They will then present their physics and perform their musical piece to fellow students and parents at the college. There will be a repeat performance that the Dagenham Show on 19 and 20 July.

Dr Chris Lavers, Britannia Royal Naval College

Nature in a Different Light

This touring exhibition, which starts off at the entrance building at Paignton Zoological Park in September and November, will display thermal imaging pictures of the zoo’s wildlife. The pictures will be accompanied by text that briefly explains thermal physics and how the pictures are interpreted. A talk will also be developed about thermal imaging of animals and the exhibition will continue to tour public venues throughout the region. The target audience is expected to be around 20,000 visitors passing through the zoo, and the reach will increase as the exhibition tours to other venues.

Julia Linke, University of Cambridge

The Iron Scientists

During Cambridge Science Festival, the University of Cambridge will be holding a hands-on event to investigate the physical and mechanical properties of materials, as well as their day to day applications. A large section of the event focuses on the magnetic properties of iron and its alloys. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about different types of magnetism as well as taking part in hands-on activities such as superconducting levitation, ferrofluids and magnetic recording.

Sheila Mathias, Garden Science Trust


The Garden Science Trust will work with year 8 students with special educational needs from Hamonds’ High School, Swaffham, Norfolk to develop, test and demonstrate a range of practical experiments on an ‘energy’ theme. The students will then explain their demonstrations to public visitors at an event held for one morning during national Energy Saving Week (20 – 26 Oct). A small display, with supporting information and a prize competition will complement the demonstrations. The event, held in the café area of Swaffham Community Centre is expected to reach about 40 adult visitors.

Ali Mozaffari, Imperial College

Imperial College Outreach Programme 2008

During the spring term 2008, undergraduate physics students will be visiting London schools weekly with the aim to challenge 14 – 19 year olds’ perceptions of physics. The undergraduates will use demonstrations and group activities around topics such as ‘The Physics of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Ice Cream Particle Physics’. The programme culminates with ‘Einstein Day’ held at the Department of Physics at Imperial College where some of the College’s top lecturers will hold lectures and perform fun and practical demonstrations.

Marieke Navin, Museum of Science and Industry

Switch On! Will the Earth get Swallowed by a Black Hole?

This project will address the key issues of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) with a series of table-top demonstrations, interactives, videos, guest speakers and costumed interpretation in a day designed to publicise and engage family groups with the switch on of the LHC. The event will be held on a Saturday around the time of the LHC switch on at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and is expected to reach over 1,000 people.

Mark Ormerod, Keele University

Inspiring Physics through Renewable Technology

Groups of year 7 – 11 schoolchildren will visit Keele University to undertake an ‘Alternative Technology’ practical workshop where they will make current/ voltage/ power measurements on solar photovoltaic panels to drive an electric motor. This will then be tested to try and optimise running distance and speed. In addition to these workshops, the project aims to reach public audiences through Renewable Energy ‘Green’ Roadshows which will tour Staffordshire towns in July and August. These roadshows will include hands-on interactive demonstrations of fuel cells and solar powered devices. This project expects to reach 400 school children, targeting girls and those from socially and educationally deprived backgrounds, and 1,200 members of the public.

Christopher Parkin, Museum of the History of Science

Gulliver’s Worlds

On Saturday 5 April 2008 the Museum of the History of Science will be inviting families and members of the general public to take part in talks, demonstrations and performances venturing into Gulliver’s Worlds from the microscopic to the telescopic. The programme will address the cultural influences of science by looking at astronomy and microscopy in the popular imagination during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including readings from Gulliver’s Travels. It is anticipated that the event will attract over 800 people and special invitations will be sent out to community groups to encourage wider participation.

Martyn Pemble, Tyndall National Institute

Mysterious Materials

Mysterious Materials aims to explain the states of matter and their optical and mechanical properties, through interactive demonstrations and hands-on workshops. These demonstrations will be delivered at Cork City Library and other library branches during Science Week Ireland (9 – 16 November). There will be a family day held at the weekend, and at least one session for schools. The activity will also be held at the Discovery exhibition in Cork.

James Piercy, Science Made Simple

Music to New Ears

‘Music to your Ears’ was the IOP schools’ lecture in 2002 and still educates thousands of students through Science Made Simple’s schools programme. ‘Music to New Ears’ will build on this demonstration lecture, adapting it for adult audiences. The new show will focus on the use of technology to produce, alter and record sounds introducing a new audience to the physics behind music reproduction. The show will be offered to five Rotary Clubs across Norfolk and will reach a total of 150 people.

Isobel Piper, University of Cambridge

CHaOS Summer Science Roadshow 2008

ChaOS will be taking hands-on experiments on their seventh annual Summer Science Roadshow. CHaOS will visit schools, festivals and public venues in July 2008. The public events are free and open to the general public on a drop-in basis and will target those in areas of deprivation. CHaOS hope to reach several thousand people through these events.

Amy Preece, Royal Armouries

Perfecting Protection; Amazing Armour

To tie in with National Reading Year 2008, The Royal Armouries will be bringing their handling collection of armour, modern body protection and sports equipment to libraries across London. Using this collection as a reference, they hope to hold sessions which stimulate discussion around various scientific principles relating to armour and protection. The sessions will target all age groups, developing links with the wider community and establish that scientific learning can be fun and not just limited to formal education.

Annette Shelford, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences

Seismographics: The Science and Art of Shaky Ground

On Saturday 25 October, the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences will be holding an event as part of the Cambridge University Festival of Ideas and the Big Draw. This event aims to bring to life the science of earthquakes and creative activities that will encourage participants to reflect upon how earthquakes can, and do inspire art. Activities include a hands-on show telling the story of the seismometer and a parallel art activity that will explore earthquakes, their recording and effects through drawing. The event will reach 250 – 400 people.

Sandra Voss, The Observatory Science Centre

Physics on the Beach

Physics on the Beach will be held at the UK’s biggest free air show, Airbourne, which will be held on the seafront in Eastbourne on 14 – 17 August 2008. Physics on the Beach aims to raise awareness of the science of flight through activities such as hands-on demonstrations about why and how aeroplanes stay in the air, and demonstrations on rocket launching and air pressure. There will also be simple ‘make and take’ activities including paper rockets and helicopters.

Chris Welch, Kingston University

It Is Rocket Science!

It Is Rocket Science is an educational, space-based 50 minute stand-up comedy show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2008. The show will be performed by comedian Helen Keen and will teach the basics of space science, communicate its benefits and stimulate thinking on the subject, while entertaining at the same time. The dialogue will continue after the show via the web.

Ruth Wiltsher, Hartlepool College of Further Education

The Big Bang - What Happens Next?

Hartlepool College of FE will be holding a Family Science Day on Saturday 18 October at Hartlepool Central Library. The activities will include Starlab inflatable planetarium, science based craft sessions, story times for younger children and science quizzes and competitions. There will also be a presentation by Dr Pete Edwards on the subject of the Large Hadron Collider for young people. On the Friday before the event, children and teenagers’ ‘science theme’ author Kartjan Poskitt will visit local schools providing story based events that are stimulating and entertaining. It is estimated that these events will reach up to 1,000 people.