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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2017

Project summaries from the winning applications

Tudor Grange Samworth Academy

Project: Families find fun with Physics

We ran an activity day for families with primary aged children to come and learn more about physics. We set up 10 tables with practical activities including making rockets, spinners, jumping beans and planispheres. We also had two challenges for families to do together which were making their own marble run and building the tallest tower.

Alongside the practical activities zone we also ran two shows.  One was called surprising science with experiments to watch that challenged thinking and the other was a planetarium show where the audience participated as the planets while finding out fun facts.

We focused on an audience from a deprived area of Leicester and invited University of Leicester graduates to volunteer.  The reasoning behind this was for the children to meet and chat to individuals who have taken their interest in physics to the next level and are making it their career.

Worker’ Educational Association

Project: Excite with Science Events

The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) is delighted to be awarded funding for our ‘Excite with Science’ events. The fun and informative sessions will give people hands-on experience of experiments, to understand how physics impacts our everyday lives. The ‘Excite with Science’ events will include the following:

  • Rocket Making
  • How to break gravity!
  • Map out Jupiter with a giant jigsaw
  • Play with the planets
  • The science behind an Air Vortex Cannon
  • Poke a hole in a balloon without it bursting
  • Does Metal have Memory?

We will hold five engagement events in community settings to bring learning about physics within reach. We will deliver workshops and family learning events to introduce people to physics, providing opportunities to then sign up for progression into more formal learning with us. Our ‘Approach to Education and Learning' focuses on socially purposeful education, helping people participate in their communities through employment, volunteering, voting, governance and more.

University of Strathclyde

Project: Science Sketch-a-nory

This project will bring together PhD students, PPI experts and graphic artists in Glasgow through a series of live sketching events throughout winter 2017, grouped together by the clinical problem that they are attempting to address (cancer, infectious disease etc). The artists and scientists will then collaborate to produce a short comic book that will be disseminated to an even wider audience of adult comic fans.

The researchers who will be involved in this project are PhD students from the EPSRC/MRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Optical Medical Imaging (OPTIMA). These multi-disciplinary students are using the hard sciences, such as physics, chemistry and engineering, to solve challenging clinical problems. Their projects combine both technology ‘push’ as well as clinical ‘pull’. However, it is very easy to get lost in highly technical language and acronyms which pose a solid barrier to others understanding the purpose of the research projects e.g. Raman spectroscopy, SERS, nanoparticles.

It is vital that projects can be described in language that the average person on the street can understand. One way in which these language skills can be fostered is via working with an expert in patient-public involvement (PPI) in research, in particular writing lay summaries in ordinary, easy to understand language.

Susan Eyre

Project: Laboratory of Dark Matters

Through a programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks and events this project invites everyone driven by curiosity to explore the mysteries of the universe.

In Spring 2016, a group of artists visited Boulby Underground Laboratory, hosted by Lab. Director Prof. Sean Paling and particle astrophysicist Dr Chamkaur Ghag, to meet scientists working on dark matter detection. The visit to this extraordinary setting 1100m below ground beyond the reach of cosmic rays and background radiation was a catalyst for the artists to develop new work reflecting distinct perspectives in response to dark matter research and the broader issues it touches upon.

The artworks were installed at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum very near to Boulby Mine for the summer of 2017. A programme of free workshops and events ran alongside the exhibition including making cloud chambers to witness the tracks of cosmic particles; experimenting with phosphorescent powders activated by laser light; tours of the exhibition, an open day with talks and dark matter themed games, quizzes and fun activities such as flying ‘dark matter’ paper planes to try and hit the ‘xenon nucleus target’.

Cheltenham Science Group

Project: Cheltenham Children’s Science Festival

Cheltenham Science Group will be providing the STEM activities at the third annual Cheltenham Children’s Festival at Cheltenham Town Hall on Saturday 26th May 2018. The Festival’s theme is Childhood: Past, Present and Future, which ties in with the IOP National Public Engagement Programme theme of Time . We will engage families from all over Cheltenham, particularly from deprived areas in West Cheltenham, with hands-on science activities at the Festival.

We will provide 500 free Science at Home goody bags for those in attendance, which will encourage on-going STEM participation beyond the Festival. We will commission a new pendulum exhibit for the Festival, which will later form part of the permanent exhibition at Cheltenham Science Group’s science centre and will be one of the exhibits we also take to other events.

BME Housing Consortium

Project: Once Upon a Time in the Universe

The project aims to make the Physics of the Big Bang and Time understandable to under-represented, hard-to-reach and marginalised audiences not engaged in Physics activity.

We will be delivering 16 workshops with nine people attending each workshop to enable audiences to learn how the flow of Time has driven the evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang’s first nanoseconds to the evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets over billions of years, to its eventual demise over Trillions of years. We will build model interpretations of the Universe and Time for an end of project Science Fair.

Description of the physics:

  • How the Flow of Time has driven the evolution of the Universe and will determine its fate.
  • The size of the Universe compared to the Observable Universe.
  • Arrow of Time – orders events into a sequence one-step after another, central to this is decay.
  • Second Law of Thermodynamics and the concept of Entropy – measure of disorder.
  • As Time passes people are born, they live, they die and the Universe also changes from the hot, dense Big Bang to its cold, empty future.

King’s College London

Project: The physics of heart beats

Physics is involved in every beat of our heart. To pump blood effectively through the body, the heart muscle must be activated in perfect synchrony. For this, it relies on complex electrical circuits that obey the same physical laws as all electronic devices. Diseases of this electrical circuit, called cardiac arrhythmias, can cause sudden death.

We will create a visual interactive exhibit to show how physics controls the rhythm at which the heart beats. This will consist of two 3D-printed models of the heart with embedded LEDs that will light up sequentially to show the heart’s electrical activation in two scenarios: healthy and diseased. We will also create a model of an electrical circuit that works in the same way as the heart.

We will also demonstrate the clinical application of cardiac physics using a tablet-based game. Visitors will attempt to terminate cardiac arrhythmias by selecting regions of the heart where electrical signals will not be allowed to propagate. This simulates exactly what cardiologists do in one of the most common treatments for arrhythmias.

The exhibit will take place in two events: International Clinical Trials Day (May 2018), in St Thomas’ Hospital, London, attended by patients and visitors; and Camden New Town Community Festival (July 2018), London, attended by local families. We aim to reach 1,200 people in total.

Three physicists from King’s College London (whose research is linked to the proposed exhibit) will provide explanations about the exhibit, which will be complemented by stand-alone information in printed panels.

University of Edinburgh/ Ogden Trust

Project: On an equal footing; soft matter physics meets ceilidh dancing

Ceilidhs are popular community and social events in the Scottish Highlands, where they involve social dances, storytelling and songs. They form an essential part of the community and social life in rural areas. Indeed, social dances are a great leveller: they are accessible and fun whatever one’s dance experience is, and they have the power of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds on an equal footing to create a common experience. This project combines physics with ceilidhs; soft matter physicists will illustrate their research via ceilidh dances and present them during traditional ceilidhs. We will put on three events in rural communities in the Scottish Highlands. These events will be two afternoon ceilidhs aimed at families held in Lochaber and Fort William and an evening ceilidh for adults in Fort William. These ceilidhs will be the perfect opportunity to gather a wide spectrum of people in a fun, inclusive and friendly way, with a gentle introduction to cutting edge soft-matter physics research. The medium of dance is ideal to illustrate soft matter physics, a discipline often focused on the study of collective motion.
After the event, we will create an online resource including a video of the dance and an explanation of the underlying physics from the original researcher. This will be aimed at school teachers and ceilidh callers.

Techniquest Glyndwr

Project: Transportation and Navigation

The project aims to engage the Portugese community of Wrexham with physicists and their work, through hands-on activities and interactive demonstrations.  The project will particularly focus on the important historical advances made by Portugese explorers in the areas of transportation and navigation, and will link these to the important research being done by physicists today.  We hope that through developing and delivering activities alongside physicists from Glyndwr University, as well as volunteers from IOP, IMechE and STEM Ambassadors, we will deliver content that is relevant, accurate and engaging.  By taking the activities out into the community we will be increasing interest and confidence in engaging with STEM amongst the Portugese community, as well as increasing confidence and enthusiasm amongst the physicists to continue with public engagement in the future.

SPARK, Keele University

Project: Let’s Build a Rover

SPARK is the physics and astrophysics society at Keele University. As part of our programme this year we will be designing and constructing a model lunar rover from scratch, using the skills and knowledge of everyone is our team. We will then go out to visit local Scout groups with our ‘Rover workshops’.

The main plan for our outreach is to offer two different workshop sessions. Firstly, we will be introducing the model lunar rover to the groups and showing them how it has been designed and put together. We will be emphasising the role that coding has on controlling the rover and then offering a hands-on opportunity to try and ‘drive’ the rover along a set route to test the participants coding skills. Our second opportunity will be a display in our very own StarDome. This portable planetarium will provide us with the perfect place to question what else is out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Splat!, the fun project that make throwing eggs, fruit and vegetables around a garden acceptable, involves children from 6 local community organisations and isolated groups visiting Treborth Botanic Garden to find out why eggs and various vegetables go Splat! when they hit the ground from a height. Splat! launches children into the world of physics and demonstrates physics in the world around us.  

Wild Elements

Project: Splat!

This project enables children to examine and understand gravity, push, pull, air resistance and velocity, as well as the energy dispersal of objects with differing masses following an impact. During the sessions, children will make different size parachutes for eggs before launching them into the air to understand resistance and gravity. They will also throw and catapult a variety of fruit and vegetables onto the ground from varying heights, measure the dispersal and distance of the different sized Splat!, and work out the velocity and direction of impact.

The children will also examine elastic and inelastic collisions through tennis balls and buckets and will understand why tennis balls do not Splat! when they hit the ground.

Splat! targets children in care, children who are home-schooled, and children living in the lower quintiles listed in the Welsh Indices of Multiple Deprivation.