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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2011

Projects summaries from previous winning applications

Nicholas Bailey, University of Glasgow

Physical Measurement and Musical Performance

Audiences in Glasgow will have the opportunity to explore how the physical movements of a musician can affect their performance. Using sensor devices, scientists at the University of Glasgow will show how you can measure the forces and timings associated with music performance - for example, the precise movement of a violinist’s bow or the speed of a pianist’s fingers. The benefits and challenges of making these measurements will be discussed. Look out for the presentation at the West End Festival, as well as during National Science and Engineering Week and at the University Study Days.

Philippa Bayley, University of Bristol

Changing Perspectives: Exploring Complexity

During April 2011, the University of Bristol will stage Changing Perspectives - a programme designed to bring researchers, artists and members of the public together to examine the links between the arts and sciences. Visitors to Bristol Gallery will have the opportunity to explore the art and science of complexity through an exhibition of work produced by University of Bristol students and researchers in collaboration with recognised artists. Postgraduate physics students will be on hand to help interpret the exhibition. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to engage with students, academics and artists during three evening discussion events. The project aims to reach 1,000 visitors and offer communications training to 24 postgraduate physicists.

Lindsey Benton, Blenheim High School

Fantastic Family Physics

Fantastic Family Physics is a series of three evening events which aim to encourage adults to learn alongside their children in an informal and relaxed environment. The sessions, ‘H2O on the Go’, ‘K’NEX Workshop’ and ‘Fantastic Physics’, all have a large practical element and will introduce various physics concepts in an easy-to-understand way. The project aims to dispel popular misconceptions about physics education in adults with less than favourable educational experiences. Each session has space for up to 50 people and will be evaluated through informal discussions and monitoring.

Susan Brumpton, The Making Place

The Science of Sound at Connect and Create Music Event

On 9 April 2011, the audience for “Something Sounds Wonderful” at the Musical Museum in Brentford may be surprised to discover that the music event contains some contemporary physics. Timetabled between bands on the Main Stage, Mark Lewney’s science show, “Rock Guitar in 11 Dimensions”, starts with the physics of sound waves and finishes with superstrings. Audience members will also be encouraged to take part in a Making Place workshop exploring the basic concepts behind sound. The event aims to inspire 250 members of the public including a high proportion of disabled people who find it difficult to access opportunities to engage with contemporary science.

Mike Corcoran, Techniquest Glyndwr

Bringing Astronomy to Families in Wrexham

Families in Wrexham will have the chance to discover more about astronomy when Techniquest Glyndwr takes its inflatable planetarium to the local cinema. Movie-goers will be encouraged to climb inside the planetarium for a short session on astronomy before or after seeing their film. Visitors will also be encouraged to attend a follow up event – a star-gazing evening during February half-term where amateur astronomers will be on hand to help visitors make observations using telescopes and binoculars. The project aims to engage at least 200 people.

Elizabeth Crilly, STEM Team Cambridgeshire

Life is Sweet – The Science of Sweetness

In support of the 2011 Cambridge Science Festival, STEM TEAM Cambridgeshire will hold a family event exploring the science of sweetness on 19 March 2011. A number of activities will be available to help explain how sugar and candy floss can be related to smart materials. Local STEM Ambassadors will be on hand to discuss the subject and to show how new developments in physics affect our lives. The event aims to engage 400 people.

Steve Cross, University College London

Hmm… I Shouldn’t Have Tried That

An evening of science storytelling, comedy and music will be one of the events on offer during the Manchester Science Festival. The live cabaret event will feature professional performers, scientists and Manchester residents talking about their own early experiments with science, with musical accompaniment and live re-enactment. Local physicists will have the opportunity to improve their communication skills by taking part in this event.

Sarah-Jane Judge, Café Sci

Café Sky

Audience members will get to choose what physics research is most valuable when Café Sky comes to the National Museum of Scotland in March. Three physics STEM Ambassadors will battle for approval by giving a short talk about their area of research followed by a discussion session. The audience at the event get to vote for their favourite speaker and the winner will be crowned the Café Sky Star. The event aims to reach 300 people, increasing their knowledge of how varied physics can be, and showing how physics impacts directly on everyday life and society.

Elisa Kraus, The Travelling Observatory

Astrophysics on a Van

Astrophysics on a Van is a travelling display that will be used to illustrate some of the concepts of contemporary astrophysics. The van will be taken to festivals, such as Small World, Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and Out of the Ordinary, where trained volunteers will use it as a visual learning aid to help introduce important astrophysical topics such as the electromagnetic spectrum, fusion reactions in stars and quantum mechanics. The project hopes to engage around 3,000 festival-goers.

Chris Lavers, Plymouth University at Britannia Royal Naval College

Swords into Ploughshares

This travelling exhibition will use high quality image pairs to emphasise the intimate relationship between technologies and modern military scientific development. Accompanying text will explore some of the underlying concepts and ethical issues raised by this topic, as well as discussing the physics involved. A talk will also be developed to complement the exhibition. The project is expected to reach at least 10,000 people in the South West region.

Natasha Le Neveu, Cardiff University

National Science and Engineering Week 2011: Science Busking in Cardiff

Students of Cardiff University, STEM ambassadors and Welsh speaking science enthusiasts will be science busking in Cardiff’s city centre and St David’s shopping centre during National Science and Engineering Week. The volunteers will receive training by science made simple to get them ready for the event. The busking activities are designed for all ages and all levels of physics knowledge and aim to awaken people’s interest in science. As a public event held at prime locations in the middle of Cardiff, it is expected to reach a large audience consisting mainly of families and children.

Kate McGrath, Sound&Fury

Going Dark (workshops)

These pre-show interactive workshops complement Going Dark – a one-man show exploring society's lost connection with the night sky and wonder at the cosmos. The workshops are designed to raise the awareness of the general public and, in particular, young people about the physics of optics, vision and light. The workshops will tour with the show and have been developed in consultation with leading scientists and science communicators. The Going Dark project hopes to reach an audience of up to 4,650 and will tour to various venues from October to December 2011.

Leonard Street, Universities of the Third Age

Encouraging U3A Members to Explore Science

Members of the Universities of the Third Age will be given a taste of science at the U3A Annual Residential Summer School on 22-25 August 2011. A science show will be performed for all summer school participants and interested members will be able to take part in a course exploring the science and technology behind lasers, secret messaging and photography. The project will reach a total audience of 200 older people.

Debbie Syrop, science made simple

Physics at The Horne Section

Audiences for The Horne Section, a jazz-infused comedy night, may unwittingly discover some physics when science made simple add some of their theatrical science demonstrations to the show. Demonstrations could include professional jazz musicians playing music into a 2m long flame tube to demonstrate standing waves, or the demonstration of resonance by playing tunes on half-filled wine glasses. Several shows will take place in London during Spring 2011 and at the Edinburgh Fringe during August 2011, reaching an estimated 1,000 comedy fans.

Rachel Thompson, Discovery Museum

Science Explorer Backpacks

The Discovery Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne will put together five physics-themed backpacks to accompany their Science Maze gallery. The backpacks will use hands-on experiments and activities to explore light, sound, electricity, magnetism and forces. Each activity will be linked to an object or interactive within the gallery, enabling the theme to be further investigated. The backpacks are expected to be used by 1,000 people including family groups and school groups

Jill Turner, High Peak Community Arts

Watts in the Yurt

Visitors to the Whaley Bridge Water Festival in July 2011 will be able to attend free interactive workshops exploring the principles of electromagnetism. The workshops will take place in a modified yurt, with electricity provided by a people-powered energy system. The energy system will be designed and built by a group of young people during two fabrication workshops at FabLab in Manchester. The festival workshops aim to reach approximately 200 people.

Kim Alderson

Messy Science

On 26 October, as part of the Manchester Science Festival 2011, children aged 6 to 11 and their families will take part in a series of messy physics experiments and join in with science songs and raps. The experiments, including using milk and food colouring to explore surface tension and herbs to investigate electricity promise a messy yet fun experience. Families will be encouraged to work together and each of the eight activity tables will be looked after by PhD students, postdoctoral researchers  and staff members from the University of Bolton.

Fred Currell

Physics Outreach Project Concerts (POP-Concerts), the Road Tour

Following a one-week intensive workshop, four pairs of final year BSc physics students from Queens University, Belfast, will develop four science demonstration shows aimed at engaging teenagers aged 14 to 18 with physics.  Each pair of students will have the freedom to include any area of physics which they find most exciting. To connect with the audience, each show will use an area from the A Level physics curriculum as the starting point and will then expand into elements of research-level physics. Just before of the Christmas vacation the pairs of final year students will go to schools in Northern Ireland to present the shows on six occasions to a total audience of 400-500 students.

Jenny Ames

The Science of the Perfect Baked Potato (Spud Physics)

From September to December 2011, The Centre for Life in Newcastle will be running a practical workshop aimed at exploring the physics of baked potatoes. The audience, expected to be made up of community groups, families and GCSE/A Level students, will bake different varieties of potato using a microwave oven and a conventional oven. During baking, participants will measure changes in temperature, water loss and texture. This activity is being developed by staff and students from the University of Northumbria in conjunction with the Centre for Life and the Physics Department at Durham University.

Jamie McKinnon

Physics, Astronomy & Astronomical Objects of Note

Over the August bank holiday 2011, more than 2,000 people from a broad range of ages and backgrounds will descend on the Limetree Music Festival in North Yorkshire. This family-friendly festival will be playing host to an area aimed at inspiring and engaging visitors with physics and astronomy, through a series of simple demonstrations, such as Alka Seltzer rockets and parachute experiments throughout the day. Visitors will be welcomed back after dark to gain first hand experience in astronomy and listen to talks about physics, the solar system and the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe.

Gregory Watson

Physics Week on Fun Kids

Fun Kids is the UK’s only radio station dedicated to children and their families, and each day from Saturday 6 until Sunday 14 August, they will be broadcasting a physics hour. Each day will focus on a different area of physics and introduce a famous physicist, outlining their main discoveries. Listeners, children and adults alike, will also be encouraged to take part in some simple physics experiments at home using everyday household items. All on air activity will be supported by additional information on the Fun Kids website, including downloads and further experiments, for children to find out more.

Emma Colclough

Physics Fun (Family Science Days)

This summer, every Friday at Ryedale Folk Museum is science day.  The science activity days will use the museum’s collections to engage families with physics and provide opportunities for intergenerational learning as well as making physics less ‘scary’. Activities on offer include discovering the forces in action when using a Victorian mangle along with a range of simple yet fun and inspiring physics tricks such as lifting a jar of rice with a pen and seeing how far visitors can blow marshmallows from a tube. The museum aims to attract between 150 and 200 visitors for each of the six science days.

Kathryn Dagless

Science in Action: underwater excavation

Throughout the summer of 2011, the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology (HWTMA) will be running an outreach activity which will engage the public with maritime archaeological techniques and help them build an understanding of physics in relation to the underwater environment. The project will develop a miniature airlift, full-size versions of which are used to excavate underwater sites such as shipwrecks or submerged landscapes. The airlift will be an activity on board HWTMA’s Maritime Bus and will reach a wide audience of all ages including school and college students, families and the general public as the Bus tours the region.

Ellen Dowell

Fuel Cell Power

Green Man Festival has a popular area known as Einstein’s Garden which plays host to talks, films, music, comedy and theatre that creatively engage visitors with science. This project will engage adults and young adults with a fun and quirky short film showing how hydrogen and oxygen are combined in a fuel cell to produce electricity, and explaining how fuel cells fit into a landscape of cleaner and more efficient energy production. The film will be screened in the indoor area of Einstein’s Garden, the Omni-Tent, before each programmed event during the Festival, reaching approximately 2400 audience members over three days. The Green Man Festival takes place between 19 and 21 August 2011 at Glanusk Park in the Brecon Beacons in Wales.

Vicky Shearman

Optical Trickery in the 17th Century

Clarke Hall is a late 17th century house, built at the time of Boyle, Newton and Hook. The museum will be running free family workshops led by a costumed interpreter, dressed as a gentleman scientist of the 1680s, which explore the lenses used for early telescopes and microscopy. The workshops will include a high level of hands-on activity encouraging participants to build their own instruments, and thus discover how they work. The workshops will be part of a public event on 10 September for Heritage Open Days. This is an established event which usually attracts over 350 visitors of all ages.

Jochen Bruckbauer

Science on the Streets

Science on the Streets is a guided walking tour that runs through the streets of Glasgow visiting landmarks in the city centre and around Glasgow Cathedral. The tour focuses on important discoveries in the history of science and focuses on Glasgow’s rich and impressive scientific and industrial heritage, including the work of James Watt, Lord Kelvin and Ian Donald. The tour is free of charge, aimed at all age groups, especially families and is run during science festivals and on demand. The Institute of Physics grant will be used for improving the website including the addition of more historical and science related articles.