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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2010

Projects summaries from previous winning applications.

Elizabeth Crilly

ROBOTS: What they do and how they do it!

As part of the 2010 Cambridge Science Festival, STEM TEAM Cambridgeshire will hold a family event investigating robotics and the diverse range of applications which use robotics. The activities will include a presentation about robotics, a workshop to make a ‘Jitterbot’ and the chance to use an IQ board to program some mini-robots. Local robotics companies will provide cutting-edge information and STEM Ambassadors will be on hand to discuss the subject. The event will be held on 13 March and aims to engage 320 people.

Adam Gibson

A pre-school rocket-building workshop

One Saturday during the Summer term of 2010, physicists and engineers from University College London will engage children (mainly 3-5 years old) and parents in a fun and informative rocket-building workshop. Five different activities and two demonstrations will be used to give parents and children an age-appropriate understanding of Newton’s Laws. The event aims to involve 30 dads and 40 children at Church Hill Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Walthamstow, London.

Omega Mehrabi

Ice Dream

From 11 to 13 March 2010, volunteers from the University of Bristol will be encouraging shoppers at The Mall Bristol to explore the sounds made by melting ice. Microphones embedded in a giant ice sculpture of a penguin will capture sounds from within the ice. The public will be able to ‘play’ the ice, listen to the sounds they create through headphones and investigate the physics and acoustic qualities of ice and glaciers. The event is expected to reach an audience of up to 3,000 people and there will be an accompanying website.

Fergus Ray Murray

Kenneth and the Waves – visual harmony at play

Kenneth is an interactive wave simulator which will be installed in a variety of community centres and cafes during 2010. By controlling the frequency, velocity and amplitude of the waves, people of all ages will be able to experience the creation of visually beautiful and compelling moving images while learning about the fundamental behaviours of waves. Each installation will be accompanied by a talk and a workshop on light and sound. Expected audience size for the installations and workshops is 1,200 people and there will be an accompanying website.

Paul Neaves

Science of Robotics – Mission to Mars

On 4 September 2010, the Star Centre will head to the Keighley show to introduce families to the wonderful world of robotics and their usefulness in space exploration. Throughout the day, families can take part in hands-on activities and workshops to investigate the physics of robotics. Activities include building a model Mars rover, controlling vehicles remotely, exploring traction and steering (on a Martian surface) and learning about decision-making computers. The show can attract several thousand people from the Keighley town centre and surrounding areas.

Simon Skelling

Town Centre Science

For National Science and Engineering Week 2010, Kirklees Museums and Galleries will be holding a day of fun science activities linked to the achievements of Dewsbury’s successful scientists. On Saturday 20 March, Dewsbury Library will host free family activities including an exhibition of some of the Museum’s bizarre and intriguing scientific instruments and hands-on workshops exploring RADAR, light waves, gases and more. The event is expected to reach several hundred people.

Lorna Stevenson

Starry Nights

The University of Oxford will help the general public and families explore astronomy through a series of open evenings and lectures. Once a month during winter, the public will have access to a 0.4 metre telescope hosted by the Department of Physics. These open evenings will include a short talk on astronomy by a graduate student and the observation of spectacular views of the night sky. Dates for the open evenings are: 19/01, 16/02, 17/02, 16/03, 17/03, 27/10, 28/10, 19/11 and 17/12. During the summer, the public are invited to a series of space-science lectures. These lectures are scheduled for: 20/04, 18/05, 15/06, 20/07, 17/08 and 21/09 and will also be available on iTunes U. This series of events is expected to reach about 1,000 people.

Claire Sweetenham

Physics Busking in Nottingham

On Friday 12 and Saturday 13 March 2010, local scientists will take physics to the unsuspecting public in Nottingham City Centre. They will present physics tricks - small hand-held, crowd-pleasing demonstrations of science. These tricks are simple to perform, use items found in the home and encourage people to have a go themselves. The event aims to show that science is fun and interactive and to make it accessible to people who wouldn’t usually come into contact with science or choose to seek it out. As a public event held at prime locations in the middle of Nottingham, it is expected to reach a large audience, consisting mainly of families and children.

Jill Turner

Travelling Light

Visitors to an annual community festival at High Lea Park, New Mills on 19 June 2010 will have the chance to engage with the wonders of optics in a modified Yurt. The Yurt will be turned into a 360° Camera Obscura by attaching a purpose-designed central crown and lens apparatus. The lead photographer will work with a physicist and talk about the historical and scientific facts relating to Camera Obscuras, taking visitors on an imaginative and creative exploration of travelling light and optical laws. There will be approximately seven sessions during the day, each session holding 10 people and the event will be entirely free and fully accessible for people of all abilities.

Kevin Weatherill

The COLDEST place in the universe

The Department of Physics at Durham University plan to show school children and the general public how to create the coldest ‘stuff’ in the universe. Using the simplest possible laser-cooling setup (i.e. a single laser, single beam, pyramidal magneto-optical trap) they will create ultra-cold atomic gases. Core concepts of laser cooling will be explained, including resonance and the Doppler effect, and audience members will have a chance to manipulate the cold atoms using magnets. Laser cooled atoms are at the heart of most modern atomic physics experiments and these demonstrations allow the public a rare glimpse of cutting-edge science in action.

James Bell

Stars & Stories at the Green Man Festival

Stars & Stories will bring the stars to festival-goers at Green Man Festival. Using outdoor laser pointers, storytellers will bring the stories associated with the constellations and planets to a new audience, inspiring them through storytelling and star spotting with the wonders of the night sky. The aim of the project is to change attitudes of the target audience towards astronomy and show that star spotting is fun and accessible to all. With a group of five storytellers, this project aims to reach 500 people over the course of the festival, which takes place 20 - 22 August 2010 in Crickhowell, Powys.

Nelly Ben Hayoun

Super K Sonic Booooum workshop

Visitors to the 2010 Manchester Science Festival will have the chance to explore the craft and science integral to particle physics during a workshop on 24 October. Participants will learn about photomultiplier tubes and have a chance to make their own device to capture invisible particles at home. The workshop will be accompanied by a variety of other hands-on activities exploring particle physics and supports the installation Super K Sonic Booooum.

Ellen Dowel

Pedal Power Physics

Visitors to Einstein’s Garden at the Green Man Festival will discover the physics of pedal power and find out all about energy conservation and the conversion of energy into different forms. Pedal Power Physics will be a key aspect of Einstein’s Garden with four bicycles used to power one of the area’s main venues. There will also be pedal power installations around the garden including phone chargers and visually striking kinetic sculptures. Trained explainers will have a constant presence and will be able to show how the principle of electromagnetic induction leads to electricity generation. In addition to these ‘drop in’ activities there will be one Pedal Power Generator Workshop programmed each day for adults and young adults. The Festival is attended by 18,000 people and takes place 20 – 22 August 2010.

Darren Graham

Harvesting Sunshine: a solar energy family fun day

On 7 August 2010, ahead of the UN climate summit in Mexico, The Photon Science Institute and the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester will run a family-friendly scientific event on solar energy. Taking place at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, the event will be packed full of fascinating table-top demonstrations and exciting interactive activities to address the key physics behind harvesting solar energy. Activities will include a solar concentrator challenge, demonstrations of the latest solar technologies and a guest speaker explaining how to turn sunshine into fuel. This event will target families who have not previously engaged with the topic of solar energy or with physics in general.

Averil Horton

Real Science Club

The Real Science Club enables children to enjoy the wonder of doing real science – by themselves. The club is based in Twickenham and is run on a voluntary basis. It provides experiments that are designed for children aged 9 - 11 to carry out by themselves (under supervision) with real equipment and materials. Physics experiments in the club include floating bubbles on CO2, liquid magnets, film can rockets, dry ice, splitting water, polarisation, non-Newtonian fluids, magnetic levitation, and making ice cream using liquid nitrogen. The IOP public engagement grant will enable the purchase of child-sized safety glasses to ensure the children can continue to experiment safely.

Jennifer Johnston

Family Discovery Sunday – Ready Steady GO!

Visitors to the University of Limerick on 7 November 2010 will have the opportunity to explore everyday concepts in physics thanks to the team at the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL). Younger children will be encouraged to explore magnetism by building a Magnetic Car. Older children and teens will have the opportunity to investigate distance, speed, time and friction as they build and race their own Balloon Rocket Car. Parents and guardians will be encouraged to get involved and will be offered information on the importance of science and mathematics to their child’s future. The event aims to engage 5,000 people.

Ra Page

Eureka Commissions

Comma Press will commission three literary authors, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Jane Rogers and Stella Duffy (to be confirmed), to respond to key moments in 20th century physics (‘eureka moments’) with new pieces of short fiction. These stories will 'get under the skin' of the theory and enter the imagination of the scientist(s) involved. They will be read at an event at the Manchester Literature Festival (MLF), and made available on-line. Three practicing physicists, Dr Tim O'Brien, Dr Robert Appleby and Dr Tara Shears, will be asked to act as 'consultants' on the stories, introducing their author to the background theory, checking on the science as the story develops, and giving explanatory 'postscripts' to each story at the reading.

Ursula Pearce

Seeing Stars!

In October 2010, HMS Warrior 1860 and The Mary Rose Trust will host a free astronomy evening for local Brownie Packs at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. During the evening, each Pack will take part in hands-on activities to explore the role of astronomy in the navigation of ships in the past. Activities will include replica object handling, a planetarium show exploring constellations, making and using a compass and quadrant and the opportunity to observe the night sky from HMS Warrior’s bridge. Brownies’ parents and carers will be encouraged to attend a lecture exploring geographical information systems (GIS) and the sinking of the Mary Rose. The event aims to engage 120 Brownies and Leaders and up to 70 parents/carers.

Andrew Robinson

Physics Rocks the Academy - revealing the secrets of audio technology

Kylie Minogue, Amy Winehouse and Oasis are just some of the names that have appeared at the Manchester Academy venue. But what would their performance be without physics? Physics Rocks the Academy invites teens and adults to come to this well-known music venue and discover how physics is used to manipulate sound in the entertainment industry. This hands-on lecture will reveal industry secrets such as how physics can make singers sound in tune, why television ads sound so loud and exactly what digital signal processing is. The event is run by the University of Manchester and aims to reach about 1,000 people aged 14-adult. Video footage of the lecture will be posted online, together with links to follow up activities on the accompanying website.

Miranda Stearn

Picturing Science

Orleans House Gallery’s 2010 winter exhibition, ‘Picturing Science’, explores how scientists and artists visualise and explain the invisible forces, relationships and processes which make up our world. This project will commission an artist to collaborate with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and develop a piece of art which translates one of the NPL’s core areas of scientific investigation into an accessible and family-friendly visualisation. The commissioned artwork will form the centre of a workshop for up to 200 local families, with visitors encouraged to create their own work in response to the ‘Picturing Science’ commission. ‘Picturing Science’ promises exciting – and surprising – ways of getting a fresh perspective on science through art.

Naomi Wyles 

Bright Sparks from History

On Friday 9 July, as part of the Wrexham Science Festival, Techniquest Glydwr will welcome families to the opening performance of their new interactive science show; Bright Sparks from History. The show, written for a family audience, will explore some key historical physics breakthroughs using fun demonstrations and interesting facts. The show will revisit the discovery that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, explore how electricity shaped the modern world and investigate what we’re really made of – at the sub-atomic level. Techniquest Glyndwr hopes for an audience of at least 50 people.