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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2009

Projects summaries from previous winning applications

Lisa Bailey

The Royal Institution family fun day: our place in the universe

To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, the Royal Institution will be holding a family fun day themed around space and the universe. This day will consist of space related talks and presentations in the famous Faraday theatre and hands-on activities run by volunteers, including amateur astronomers. The hands-on activities include families working together to construct astronomy related objects, such as a telescope or an orrery that they can take home and use later. It is hoped that this will increase the impact of the experience and families will continue to be excited, inspired and enthused for longer. The Royal Institution expects to attract an audience of 1,000 people to this event.

Cathy Batt

Cutting edge science: investigating changes in metals in the past

Cutting edge science aims to show how scientific techniques can be used to investigate technological changes in the past. The workshop, held on 11 March 2009 at the University of Bradford, will demonstrate the change from copper alloy to iron technology through the study of metallographic sections of archaeological artefacts and laboratory specimens. The event will be open to all, but will be particularly targeted at those with an interest in archaeology such as history students, local archaeological societies and Young Archaeologists Clubs.

Nicol Bradshaw

Astronomy evening for Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and their families

On 18 May 2009 Sheffield Rainbows, Brownies and Guides are invited to bring their families to an astronomy evening. The evening will include three 45 minute astronomy sessions held inside an inflatable planetarium. Presentations will include a guest speaker, music and projections of planets, constellations and other astronomical features. Expected audience size is 105 people.

Susan Brumpton

A pilot night club event with a science focus

Luminopolis is a regular club night which already works with charities and NGOs to host talks, demonstrations and stalls. However, in October 2009, these will be replaced with science activities, hands-on demonstrations, talks and interactives. The funding received by the Institute of Physics will support Mark Lewney’s show Rock Guitar in 11 Dimensions, Jon Butterworth’s talk on Particle Physics and the Large Hadron Collider and a hands-on activity making jumping beans. The event is expected to reach an audience of up to 3,000 people.

Caroline Burt

Targets, trajectories and trebuchets

Kingston Museum’s summer 2009 exhibition will be ‘Medieval Machines’; a hands-on, interactive exhibition which will allow people to explore the operation of medieval technological innovations in a creative way. Targets, trajectories and trebuchets will be an expert-led physics project to accompany the exhibition. It will consist of two workshops where participants will design and build trebuchets, with the aim of building the most accurate and/ or powerful machine resulting in a competition to determine who has designed the best machine. The target audience is fathers and their children.

Sarah Chaney

National Science and Engineering Week at the Benjamin Franklin House

During National Science and Engineering Week 2009 the Benjamin Franklin House will be hosting a free open day for adults, families and young people. Three visually exciting physics demonstrations will run throughout the day. These demonstrations refer to Franklin’s scientific activities at the House centring on the development of the lightning rod, investigation into canal depths and Franklin’s musical invention – the glass armonica. Further targeted sessions with groups at risk of exclusion such as the Leighton Project, a community-based further education project for young adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties, will increase the target audience to 250 participants.

Elizabeth Crilly

The physics of the bicycle through the centuries

On Saturday 14 March 2009, as part of Cambridge Science Festival, STEM TEAM Cambridgeshire will be inviting families to take part in a workshop investigating the physics of the bicycle. The workshop involves a short presentation about the physics of the bicycle followed by the opportunity to make a model of a current style bicycle or a bike of the future. The workshop will be staffed by Science and Engineering Ambassadors who have a specific interest in cycling and the bicycle. Holding this event in Cambridge is particularly apt as Cambridge has one of the highest levels of cycling in the country. The workshop is expected to reach 320 participants.

Paul D’Silva

Mexborough and Swinton Astronomical Society

For International Year of Astronomy the Mexborough and Swinton Astronomical Society will be holding two Bring Your Own events. These events encourage members of the public to bring their own telescopes and binocular and receive help on using them to view the night sky. The events will be held at Trybergh Country Park in March and September 2009.

Susan Easton

First steps into astronomy

On 11 May 2009 at the Royal Airforce Museum in Cosford, the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) will be holding an event for the public as part of National Adult Learners Week. As part of this event NIACE will be developing a number of activities to raise public awareness of the impact of astronomy on our daily lives and the importance of space exploration. The activities include a series of short talks provided by local astronomy groups and local university physics departments, rocket launching activities in partnership with RAF Education and simple telescope activities to raise awareness of the importance of Galileo’s experiments. The expected audience size for this event is approximately 750 people.

Stephan Eisenhardt

Particle Physics in the Universe Today (PUTT)

On 26 August 2009 the Scottish Universities Summer Schools in Physics taking place at St. Andrews University will open its doors to the general public for an outreach event. In the afternoon approximately 250 secondary school children will visit the university with up to 250 members of the general public being invited in the evening. The visitors will be introduced to the basic ideas and findings of particle physics and to the scientific methods and strategies used to find them. The events will include a lecture by Brian Cox of University of Manchester and hands-on displays and experiments staffed by research students of particle physics or a related field.

Alison Hamer

Water Water Where?

To celebrate National Science and Engineering Week, Alnwick Garden will be holding a week of fun science activities based on the unique features of the Serpent Garden, the Treehouse and the Grand Cascade. This year it will also feature the stars above Alnwick with a contribution of a portable planetarium. The week of activities will end with a family weekend where visitors will be given science kits that include the materials needed to perform experiments based on IOP’s Marvin and Milo cartoons. It is hoped that the families take these kits home to try the experiments together. Similar events held at Alnwick Gardens in the past have attracted over 1,000 visitors.

Simon Jago

An IYA2009 celebration at the Pembrokeshire County Show

The aim of this project is to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009) in Wales. The project will deliver IYA2009 activities at the Pembrokeshire County Show 18 – 20 August 2009. It is expected that in excess of 96,000 people will attend the show and Techniquest plans to engage up to 5,000 of them in astronomy and contemporary physics. Many of the visitors will be from rural and remote communities and Techniquest will motivate them to participate through innovative and interactive activities which include a mobile planetarium and science busking.

Christopher Parkin

Starry Messengers

On Saturday 4 April 2009, the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford will be holding a day for all the family with talks, demonstrations, children’s activities and performances celebrating the history of astronomy with the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The target audience will include families with children and other members of the general public. The museum is anticipating an attendance of at least 800 visitors for this event.

Kenneth Skeldon

The Word on Physics

In 2009 the University of Aberdeen will be launching a series of science events within the context of Word, the University’s writers festival. The first of these events, ‘Stories Under the Stars’, will be sessions held in an inflatable planetarium for schools and families themed around the stories of constellations and looking at modern techniques that inform our understanding of the universe. The second event, ‘Science Fiction or Science Fact’, is a Café Scientific event hosting a debate on whether science fiction helps the public better appreciate science itself. The writers festival attracts over 10,000 people and it is hoped that these science events will engage with an audience that would not traditionally attend events with a scientific theme.

Rachel Feldberg

Otley Science Festival

The town of Otley in West Yorkshire will be hosting their annual week long science festival from 15 – 22 November 2009. Festival activities include a physics lecture by Adam Hart Davis about the history of the vacuum, a day long family science fair and a 20/20 science café for teenagers and adults. The festival aims to encourage young people and their families to appreciate science as something exciting, stimulating and worthwhile and to encourage them to take their interests further. The festival expects to attract 1,800 visitors during the course of the week.

Carlos Frenk

Our Cosmic Origins: building the Milky Way

The Institute for Computational Cosmology (ICC) at Durham University have been awarded a place at the Summer Science Exhibition, a showcase to present the cutting edge of UK science to the general public. The event will be held in London at the Royal Society from 29 June – 4 July 2009. The exhibit will bring the ICC’s work on the computer simulation of the growth of cosmological structures to the general public. In particular it aims to explain how our galaxy, the Milky Way, was formed. The exhibit will include a hands-on demo showing how supernovae shake up the gas inside galaxies and a Wii-controlled ‘Galaxy Wars’ simulator. The materials produced will be integrated into the ICC’s public outreach programme after the event.

Laura Grant

Physics London

Science London is a branch of the British Science Association and during summer 2009 they will be holding three physics-related activities under the title of Physics London. The activities include a Science London Book Club which meets monthly to discuss popular science books with their authors, a SciBAr event which is a discussion event based in a bar or pub and a city stargazing event which will be held in Hoxton Square. These events aim to reach at least 120 adult participants and will include physicists and physics communicators in the development and delivery of the activities.

Bryan Lipscombe

How wind turbines work

This is an interactive exhibit to demonstrate how wind turbines work and will be taken to approximately ten community events primarily, although not exclusively, in northwest England. The interactive model will enable the visitors to experiment with the design of a model turbine by changing the number of blades and their orientation. It will also be linked to a bench meter enabling users to test their designs by spinning them with an electric fan. The exhibit will be displayed alongside exhibits about the physics of solar thermal and solar electric panels. It will be shown at events in the summer and early autumn and is expected to reach primarily family groups.

Diane Marlborough

Stargazing: a science-themed family fun day

On Saturday 17 October 2009, Hartlepool Central Library will be holding a ‘Stargazing’ event that aims to promote physics by relating it to the Tall Ships race which will be visiting Hartlepool in 2010. Key themes for the event will include celestial navigation, displacement and why objects float/ sink. Activities on the day will include a Space Encounters mobile planetarium, NEPIC Science Show and activities from the Nautical Archaeology Society. There will also be a physics-themed treasure hunt, craft sessions and story time. The library expects to attract 1,200 to the event.

Cara O’Callaghan

Alternative Energy Family Fun Day

Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills will be holding a family fun day on 29 October 2009. The event will focus on alternative energy and activities include making Solar Trains and taking part in a solar challenge, making wind turbines and a competition to design the most green mode of transport. There will also be a demonstration from the curator of Industrial Sciences on how water wheels work and a chance to see the museum’s newly restored water wheel. Visitors will also get to make and test their own water wheel. The museum expects to receive 350 people at this event.

Richard Richardson

The Incredible Machine

In November at the Kent Science Festival, teams of 12 – 14 year old students will build an Incredible Machine to transmit a ‘message’ around the room. They will do this by creating a system of levers, pulleys, catapults, pendulums and slopes to send to ‘message’ forward at each stage. As they do, they experience at first hand many aspects of basic physics: potential energy, kinetic energy, friction, mass, speed, momentum, acceleration and force. The teams will work with kits made especially for the event.

Margarida Sardo

Roaming Robots

Roaming Robots will take simple physics demonstrations directly to the public via informal ‘busking’ activities. Working with experts on science busking and ten researchers from the Walking with Robots network, the Science Communication Unit at University of the West of England will develop at least 3 busking activities which demonstrate physics principles relevant to the area of robotics research. They will then take these activities to Manchester Piccadilly railway station and deliver short entertaining and informative demonstrations. They plan to engage 120 local participants with these activities.

Lindsey Shaw Greening

Physics in the Home

Physics in the Home is a set of physics experiments, with accompanying literature, that can be done in the home with equipment you can buy from the supermarket or find in the kitchen. A set of these activities will be taken out to at lest two science festivals, such as the Milton Keynes Big Weekend (17 – 18 October 2009) and one city festival such as the Big Moo. The activities are aimed at a family audience and expect to reach 150 people at each event.

Vicky Shearman

Experimental Physics in the 17th Century

Clarke Hall is a late 17th century house and educational museum with a programme of public events and activities on a 17th century theme. In September 2009, the Hall will be holding two free public hands-on events using a costumed interpreter dressed as a gentleman scientist of the 1680s. As part of these events, the Hall will be running a family workshop where participants build their own scientific instruments of the period, such as a barometer and discovering how they work. The workshops will run on 5 September 2009 and can hold 24 participants each. A version of the workshop will also be incorporated into a public event the Hall is hosting on 12 September 2009 for Heritage Open Days. This established event usually attracts 350 visitors of all ages.

Sandra Voss

Water Rockets at Syon Park

On 26 July 2009, to mark the 400th anniversary of the first use of a telescope to look at the Moon, there will be a day of activities at Syon Park, Middlesex, where Thomas Harriot actually made his observations. As part of the event, the Observatory Science Centre will be holding a water rocket challenge. The rockets will be built from empty 2 litre drinks bottles, paper, card and balloons and launched using a foot pump. Along with building the rockets, there will be a display about how rockets achieve lift off and how they actually get into space. The activity aims to engage over 100 family members and astronomy enthusiasts.

Nhamburo Ziyenge

Mbira Orientated Musical Physics Workshop

The mbira is an African musical instrument made up of metal keys attached to a piece of wood. Using the mbira workshop will be developed to investigate the physics of the instrument. Topics include the classical theory of vibrations, octaves and frequencies and relating it to musical terminology such as pitch, tone, timbre, notes and tempo. The workshops will take place at three locations, the Zimbabwe Mbira Camp in Devon, the East Oxford Community Centre and at the African Caribbean Centre in Leicester. The workshops are expected to reach 80 people over the three locations.