Menu Close


Log in to personalise your experience and connect with IOP.

Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2016

Projects summaries from previous winning applications

Arun Bector, BME Housing Consortium

Project: It “IS” Rocket Science

Workshops for 100 participants including Women, Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants, People living with mental health and learning disabilities, People from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Wolverhampton.
What we are planning:

  • Recruit 2 trainers to deliver 10 workshops over 10 weeks with 10 people attending each workshop.
  • Audiences will learn:
    • a. How Rockets fly.
    • b. Construct their own model Rockets demonstrating their knowledge for an end of project Science Fair.
    • c. Build and launch actual model Rocket kits.

Daniel Vincent McCarthy, The Festival of Curiosity

Project: Curious Sights @ Curiosity Carnival 2016

The Curiosity Carnival is a hands on adventure in science, play & curious technology at The Festival of Curiosity’s interactive science playground. The general public step inside Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin City Centre and experience an exciting carnival of hands on workshops, adventures, interactive installations and games for all the family.

Curious Sights @ Curiosity Carnival 2016 will be a key element and installation at the carnival created in collaboration with artist Laura de Burca which will ask families to roll up their sleeves and explore the physics of optics, light and colour in an interactive and fun setting. The activities designed by Laura will allow families to interact, understand and engage with light and optics in a cultural setting, giving them the confidence to explore similar ideas at home and in the community.

David Mathers, South Kesteven District Council

Project: Sky Cube

Developed by Lincolnshire based digital artist and microlight pilot, Joanna White. Working with Queen Mary's University, University of Lincoln, the regional representative Institute of Physics and scientists participating in the festival.  the project involves collecting data in a cube of ‘air’ above a defined space and audio and visual recordings and their associated data are then presented as a visual projection, digital audio and mobile phone based exhibition installation.  The project has previously been trialed over an RAF airbase in Lincolnshire and this presents a new phase.

The objective is to sample and present the cube of air from above the historic property of Woolsthorpe Manor where Sir Isaac Newton was born and grew up, and identifies with his ideas of the Ether and the connectivity of all things.   It will coincide with 350th anniversary year of Newton’s annus mirabilis when he made some of his most important discoveries, which will be celebrated as part of the Gravity Fields festival in September 2016.

Deborah McNeil, Glasgow Science Festival

Project: Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret

2016 marks the tenth year of Glasgow Science Festival (GSF), which will run from 9-19 June. It's also a special year for British space exploration, with Tim Peake making history as the first Briton to visit the International Space Station.

To celebrate Tim's return from space and GSF's tenth anniversary this June, we will develop and deliver 'Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret', a fun, innovative variety night that invites the audience to explore the physics of space through music, comedy, poetry and hands-on activities. The event will target adults aged 18+, a demographic currently underserved in public engagement. It will take place in a non-traditional venue for science such as a pub or community centre.

'Cosmic Cabaret' will be led by GSF in collaboration with Dr Aidan Robson and other University of Glasgow physicists, Bright Club and members of the arts community. Prior to the event, public engagement training will be provided to researchers to support delivery. We will commission 'space poetry', 'space jams' and 'space funnies' from a local poet, musician and comedian, who will work with researchers to develop original, physics-inspired content. Live performances will be interspersed with the opportunity to get hands on with a range of activities, including: optical spectrometer-building to 'fingerprint the stars'; X-ray pictures using a Medipix detector; cloud chamber/cosmic ray activities linking to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the ISS; and a remote-controlled 'Mars Rover' linked to the ExoMars programme and Expedition 46 science. The event will be complemented with engaging features online.

Hannah Middleton, University of Birmingham

Project: Finding Other Worlds

The transit method searches for exoplanets (planets around stars other than the Sun) by looking for the change in light intensity from the star as the planet passes between the Earth and the star. The visual nature of this method makes it an accessible and interesting demonstration for children and school groups.

We will produce a model orrey, with a single planet orbiting a rotating star, which will effectively and simply demonstrate the transit method. The model will consist of a bulb for the star and a smaller planet orbiting.

We will use already existing free software from Kepler (Kepler Light Grapher) to produce transit light curves from the model in real time. In addition to the planet finding, we will incorporate Sun spots on the star to show the rotation of the star as well as the transit of the planet in the light curve.

Larissa Paver, Telegraph Museum Porthcurno

Project: Physics Fiesta

Housed in original telegraph buildings and wartime tunnels, Telegraph Museum Porthcurno tells the extraordinary story of the engineers who designed, created and maintained a hidden communications network of undersea cables.  From 1870 these cables connected Britain with the world, and at its peak fourteen telegraph cables ran under Porthcurno's sandy beach.  Now there are four fibre-optic cables, equally hidden and little understood by the public, which form part of the modern global communications network.

Our Physics Fiesta aims to engage summer visitors to Porthcurno valley with the physics behind this fantastic story, and the amazing contribution it makes to our everyday lives.

We will work with Dr Martin Coath, Professor Gareth Parry and our Honorary Curator John Packer to develop a science show and associated busking activities that inspire and enthuse visitors with the physics of telegraph and fibre optic telecommunication.  On 25th July 2016, Martin will train 16 volunteers and staff in how to deliver these electricity, magnetism and light-based activities in an exciting, interactive and safe way.

From 26th - 29th July our team will deliver three free science shows per day in our Clore Learning Space, as well as busking activities on the beach (weather permitting), reaching an anticipated audience of 3,000.

Peter Reid, The University of Edinburgh

Project: Symmetries in Light: the life and work of David Brewster

2016 marks the 200th anniversary of the invention of the kaleidoscope by the Scots physicist Sir David Brewster, an ex-alumnus and principal of the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, yet someone who is little known in his own country. He is, however, recognised in Japan, where there is still a huge interest in the art and optics of the kaleidoscope. Brewster is one of the founding figures in physics in the mid nineteenth century – particularly in the fields of optics and optical instruments – and his discoveries are still relevant today.

In collaboration with the Japan Kaleidoscope Museum and the University of St Andrews, the University of Edinburgh is presenting a lecture, exhibition and workshop at the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival, in which we will describe how Brewster’s work in optics has influenced modern science and society, with exhibits that illustrate the underlying scientific principles, and how contemporary research in optics is carried out.

As well as demonstrating Brewster’s work in optics, the exhibition will also introduce the public in Scotland to the extraordinary range of kaleidoscopes held by the museum, showcasing the work of Japanese artists and artisans, as well as describing the way in which Brewster’s ideas live on in his adopted country. The workshop will show children and adults how to make their own kaleidoscope, and describing its basic optical principles.

In the week following the EISF event, the exhibition, workshop and lecture will be transported to a venue at the University of St Andrews.

Rae Hoole, Daisi

Project: Lise Meitner: The Battle for Ultimate Truth

Bringing public attention to Meitner’s role in the discovery of ‘nuclear fission’, her humanity and her impact on the modern world, Daisi has combined forces with Footcandle Productions to create a performance piece and associated workshop programme to inspire a passion like hers for pure and exquisitely simple physics.

Footcandle Productions will illuminate the dramatic and at times life threatening events of her story alongside an exploration into the maths and physics she grappled with in order to arrive at the theoretical explanation of the splitting of the uranium atom. The performance, told from her own perspective, will expose audiences to her life, her associates, the maths behind her discovery and its historical context.

This programme is being developed by an interdisciplinary team comprising physics graduates, theatre practitioners and young people from a state secondary school in Devon. It will ultimately tour to education establishments, conferences and to science festivals in the UK and beyond.

Roberto Trotta, Imperial College London

Project: g-ASTRONOMY: the cosmos on the tip of your tongue

Astrophysics is one of the most universally appealing fields of physics, as it asks questions about the very nature of the cosmos we live in. But the cosmos is also far removed from our everyday experience. This is part of its mystery and fascination, but it can be a hurdle when trying to engage the public in a genuine, two-way dialogue. g-ASTRONOMY will create an immersive, multi-sensorial experience to engage the public with three of the most fascinating questions of modern astrophysics and cosmology: the nature of dark matter; the properties of black holes; the origin of the Universe.

Astrophysicist Roberto Trotta joins efforts with molecular gastronomy chef Jozef Youssef and his team at  Kitchen Theory to present an interactive culinary experience that will translate these three questions in three dishes, designed to embody in a metaphorical (but scientifically accurate) way the core physical characteristics of dark matter, black holes and the Big Bang.

Roberto and Jozef's expertise in their related fields – together with their considerable experience in public engagement with science – make this collaboration uniquely suited to using gastronomy as a medium for explaining complex scientific ideas. We aim at shortcircuiting the perception of astrophysics and cosmology as “brainy” subjects, that can often be seen as daunting by members of the public and young adults. Instead, we will use food and the sensorial experience it entails as a tool to engage a wider public than the usual punters. g-Astronomy will translate complex ideas into a relatable and interactive (not to mention delicious) medium: food.

g-ASTRONOMY will be an original, educational and memorable experience for everybody. It will widen participation and engage a novel public with cutting-edge astrophysics research.

Arun Bector, BME Housing Consortium


Workshops for 120 participants including Women, Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants, People living with mental health and learning disabilities, People from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Wolverhampton.
What we are planning:

  • Recruit 2 trainers to deliver 15 workshops with 8 people attending each workshop.
  • Workshops will explain the physics of telescopes using actual telescopes, lenses and mirrors.
  • Support audiences to build their own telescopes taking photos with them.
  • Showcase their telescopes and photos at the Science Fair.

Clara Hickey, Strathpeffer Community Association Ltd

Project: Sound and Vision Science Festival

The aim is to explore different aspects of science relating to Sound and Vision in a released and informal setting where the wider community will be able to access a range of displays, video talks, performances and hands-on activities.

There will be a number of interactive demonstrations which will explain how we use echolocation to understand animal communication; demonstrate the science of bubbles and light refraction and the application of sound and vision through technology. We will work with a number of professional scientists along with companies who use the technology everyday and interested amateurs.

The festival will take place on Saturday 18th March 2017 as part of British Science Week. It is the only science festival occurring in Ross-shire and will attract over 350 people from across the rural area. Families along with young and older people will attend and take part in a variety of activities. In addition, the photographic exhibition by Dingwall Camera Club along with the Arts meets Science session in May 2017 will help to expand people’s understanding of science and encourage people to come along who would not necessary attend a Science Festival.

The rural community will understand the basic facts about the physics behind sound and vision and how it is used in everyday life in a fun and informal setting.

Daniel Brown, Nottingham Trent University

Project: Exploring Time, Experience Science 1834 Bromley House Meridian

Meridian sundials were commonly installed in the early 19th century to ensure accurate local timekeeping for the expanding railway network. The meridian at Bromley House Library in central Nottingham was recently uncovered during renovations and is one of only three such surviving meridian in the country possibly even being installed before 1834 (others located in Durham Cathedral and Former Custom House in Ramsgate, Bateman 2008). Although previous work (Bateman 1999) has explored its historic background, indicating possible links to local mathematician George Green, and to some extent the physics behind this device, most visitors to the library are unclear about the meaning of the exposed brass line running across the carpet. Currently there is no interpretive display and only limited online resources to inform the public about this historically and scientifically important instrument.

In this project we aim to address both of these deficiencies by broadcasting live-streaming of the Sun’s position relative to the meridian line and developing of a physical display in the library. This funding will provide the critical first stage to enable a wider range of future outreach events targeting time and the Sun’s apparent motion.

In this first stage, the interpretative display and public talks in the library will target the predominantly retired library members, an audience that would not usually engage with standard astronomy or science events. In addition, the online resource, displaying live and historical images from the meridian will allow a fuller experience of how it marks time, to a potentially global audience.

Gregory Watson, Children’s Radio UK Ltd

Project: Physics in the Science around Christmas

Christmas is a time of wonder and magic. But perhaps there is a little science that also underlies what makes this period so magical.

Our proposal is to explore the Science around Christmas - from physics and ecology to chemistry and technology - through a series of (at least) 12 audio features for broadcast on Fun Kids during December 2016 until the end of the Christmas holiday period in early January 2017. Within this series, four features will focus on physics.

Rather than Santa and the Elves talking about what Mrs Claus is cooking up in the kitchen or getting the sleigh MOT’d for the big night, Santa and his helpers will explore, amongst other topics, why Rudolph’s noise is so shiny (and what other animals glow), how Santa’s sleigh can possibly get off the ground with all those presents, and what’s the best way to create sticky tape to help wrap all those presents.

Created audio will be broadcast daily on Fun Kids and available as downloadable online resources on the Fun Kids website, app and iTunes channel. To support the audio, additional information including images and links to our partners' websites, will be provided on dedicated pages within Online resources will remain available in perpetuity.

The aim of our project is to inspire children with physics (and other STEM subjects) by highlighting that science is very much part of everyday life... and Christmas. We will help raise awareness of contemporary physics, and enthuse children and their families to discover more.

Kat Borrowdale, Glasgow Hula Hoop

Project: Circus Science: Ringleaders and Saboteurs

The wonder of circus lies in its seeming impossibility, but with a little investigation we can see how tricks are successful based on underlying concepts in physics. Using deduction, investigation and practical design skills, participants will attempt to create both a successful hula hoop show and a total failure – with the final demonstrations being performed by two experienced circus artists! This is a new partnership between Glasgow Hula Hoop and Glasgow Science Festival, where 13-16 year olds will modify, test and present their ‘ideal hula hoop’ and a ‘sabotage!’ hula hoop to be tested live on stage.

Workshops will begin with a short circus performance and demonstration of hula hooping. Next, the 10-20 participants will be given time to design, test and present their hula hoop designs. Materials used to augment/construct the hula hoops will include fabric, balloons, weights and different densities and sizes of piping. After the presentation and (comedy) performances using the prototypes, there will be a discussion of what worked well and the underlying concepts, concluded by a circus performance using the different prototypes.

Workshops will be delivered during Glasgow Science Festival (June 2017), with up to 14 workshops over 4 days. By running workshops at youth groups in areas of multiple deprivation, expanding the GSF outreach programme, we will aim to switch on a new audience to the importance and relevance of physics in the world of circus entertainment, and, by extrapolation, the practical application of physics in their own everyday physical activities.

Libby Heaney, Royal College of Art

Project: Quantum Computer Art

We will produce artwork with early stage quantum computers (QC) making visible to the public for the first time the mysterious properties of QC algorithms as well as their architectures and interfaces.  To achieve this, myself and 6-10 members of the Systems Research Group at the RCA will collaborate with 5-10 PhD/2 post-doc scientists at the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol, who have developed the world’s first reprogrammable QC chip, providing sufficient control for artistic concerns to be addressed.  The artworks will take the form of new physical, 2D/3D and multisensory works, which will be exhibited in London and Bristol to the general public.  We expect 250-500 visitors.  We will also hold events to enable the scientists and artists to share information about their collaborations.      

Quantum computers continuously make headlines, but their functioning remains opaque to all but trained experts, thus this public engagement is timely and the communication value high.  With the requested funding, we can foster greater links between scientists/artists, produce high quality, ambitious artworks and exhibit these in public facing spaces.

The project will run from Nov – Spring and will start with an in-depth session with the artists, scientists and curators at the V&A computer art collection (confirmed), digging deep into the practices of early computer artists from 1960/70s.  This is exceedingly relevant as digital computers in the 1960s were at the same stage of development as QCs are now.  Taking this as initial inspiration for the work, we will then proceed via weekly Skype and lab meetings.  Each stage of the process will be documented using photography, video and a blog and presented alongside the final work.  

Rob Maloney, Online Post Production

Project: 95% Unknown

This project seeks to meld art and physics through the use of new multimedia formats, connecting a lay audience to the inspiring and mysterious questions surrounding dark matter and supersymmetry. 95% Unknown will be a documentary based on a series of interviews, abstract visuals and soundscapes, culminating in an art installation proposed to be exhibited in London in May/June 2017, where visitors will be able to experience an immersive audiovisual experience.

Our aim is to engage an audience of independent artistic young adults with the origins of dark matter, not only by explaining what it is, but also revealing new findings and analysing the impact that those can have on the world we live in. In doing so, we will interview several scientists specialised in this field. We have Dr. Sarah Alam Malik (Imperial College London) and Professor John Ellis (King’s College London, CERN), and others who will guide the audience through their research and help unravel the mystery that is dark matter.

Topics such as Bullet clusters, particle collisions, the Higgs Boson and supersymmetric particles will all be explained simply during interviews, filmed from December 2016. The final film will be showcased during an exhibition (location TBC) along with specialised light installations, 4K projections and soundscapes, allowing viewers to be fully immersed in the experience.