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Public Engagement Grant Scheme funded projects 2019

Project summaries from winning applications

Andrea Leech

Project: Going with the flow - tides and the Deben Estuary

Most people have experience of tides on beaches where land meets the open sea but few know much about the major influence tides have on estuaries such as the Deben in Suffolk.

This project aims to increase enjoyment of the estuary and engagement with issues relating to management of the river including flood defences needed to protect this vulnerable environment.

Based in the Longshed, home of Woodbridge Riverside Trust (WRT), the project will offer activities for people of all ages over two weeks in October 2019. Local interest groups, expert speakers, primary and secondary schools are working with WRT volunteers on a programme of talks, exhibits, activities and games covering:

  • why tides occur - how the Moon's gravity creates tides and how its orbit impacts on tide times and amplitudes
  • tidal energy - how it has been used in the past - the local Tide Mill and other types of production using turbines and barrages, where on an estuary these types of energy could be generated
  • tidal flow and mitigating factors (such as presence of salt marsh) in shaping the estuary, the impact of tidal flow on navigating the river by boat, including opportunities to experience flow through movement
  • tidal influence - how we got and can't live without a Moon
  • how tides create mudflats and habitats for living organisms

Emilie Ringe

Project: The sound and feel of physics

The aim of this project is to develop, test, and deploy learning activities related to everyday physics for visually disabled individuals.

The short modules (< 10 minutes) will teach simple scientific concepts related to the physics of everyday life, such as electromagnetism, waves and batteries. They rely on tactile and auditive stimuli, instead of visuals, to educate curious individuals for whom access to science and education is poor, especially after they leave school.

This project will benefit not only the participants, but also the volunteers and the accessible science community as a whole. By providing real-world scientific education directly to ~50 individuals with visual disabilities, we aim to generate a physics-aware population, which will help support a diverse workforce and an educated general public. The 20 or so volunteers will gain experience in adapting science, promoting an inclusive workspace and an out-of-the-box thinking about communication.

Lastly, through publication and web posting, we aim to contribute to the advancement of accessible science at a national and international level, reaching many more individuals with visual disabilities.

Jamie Williams

Project: Detecting and Using Radio Waves from Earth and Space

The Skill Mill is part of Northdale Horticulture, a charity based on in Northallerton, North Yorkshire and provides skill-based activities for people suffering from mental health problems. They are keen to utilise new technologies and educational tools to offer new educational pathways and opportunities for their service users.

The Skill Mill has partnered with the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester to provide five of their new Radio Educational Outreach Tool (RadEOT) units, which utilises software defined radio (SDR) technology to collect and process radio signals using software rather than conventional hardware. SDR is a highly flexible technology which can easily be configured to detect signals from multiple sources, from aircraft transponder signals to radio astronomy.

In this project, the University of Leicester will manufacture five RadEOT units and customise the GUI applications for a wide range of educational tasks. These RadEOT units will be deployed at the Skill Mill, where they will be used to offer new educational opportunities to users with mental health problems to demonstrate new areas of science and technology to those with little science background. Service users at the Skill Mill will gain hands on, practical experience of using technology to gather and process live data, as a scientist does.

Jowonder (Joanna Woodward)

Project: Schrodinger's Cat, a collaboration with art, digital media, music and physics

Jowonder's Schrodinger's Cat pictures two identical cat characters in a cocktail bar, one living, and one dead.

I have always thought the arts were there to describe the indescribable. And I believe that the enquiry into science is not that different from what makes an artist want to create. When Erwin Schrodinger invented Schrödinger's Cat, it was a perfect example of the use of imagination to describe a difficult concept.

Being given the chance to make a Schrödinger's Cat Box, inside which two identical animated cat characters sit and drink in a cocktail bar, one living,and one dead, I will be working in the spirit of curiosity which builds a bridge between scientific discovery and artistic play, enabling them to collude.

Two scientists in the form of song and poetry; Marcus du Sautoy, author/populariser of science and mathematics, and PHD student Sapphire Lally, will collaborate with me on the project to celebrate Erwin Schrodinger and his imaginative portrayal of the concept of 'wavefunction collapse' that selects one of several outcomes at random in quantum processes. Their input will further imaginatively describe the process, making it an honour as well as a truly exciting creative opportunity for us all.

Kenny Bean

Project: Maxwell's Marvellous Mind

Light Lab will create an exciting and inspiring new public science event for community and science festivals across Scotland aimed at 6–13 year olds called 'Maxwell's Marvellous Mind'. The event will allow participants to explore James Clerk Maxwell's work on colour imaging and the electromagnetic spectrum through highly engaging activities in IR, UV and visible light.

Maxwell's Marvellous Mind is a celebration of the formulation of the theory of electromagnetism and Maxwell's obsession with colour, leading to the invention of colour photography. The event is aimed at families with young children and many of the community festivals attract audiences who have never experienced science interactives before. It will bring together activities such as the Infra-Red Hot & Cold Room, The UV Drawing Room and the Colour Split and Mix Light Experiments Boxes.

The main aim of the event is to leave children with an inspiring, positive experience of science activity to take forward into their lives. We also hope to engage parents, who perhaps never found science appealing when they were younger and encourage them to positively support their children's interest in science.

Lara Stafford

Project: Cinderella the Physicist: A family pantomime with a difference!

Was Cinderella's success really down to good looks and magic? Or did she save herself using mad physics knowledge and some cool experiments? Cinderella the Physicist will prove it was the latter, empowering this traditionally weak protagonist.

At a time when cars, trains and astronauts are still conspicuously absent from 'girl's' clothing and toys, Theatre of Science's pantomime aims to introduce physics as a mind-blowing subject that is all around us, and open to everyone.

The Institute of Physics' Public Engagement Grant will enable children living in Yorkshire to attend the show for free, encouraging large audiences of families who have no prior interest in science. The IOP will also fund 'goody bags', encouraging physics-related discussion and play beyond the event. Theatre of Science are also delighted to have IOP members on-board in an advisory capacity, bringing with them a wealth of insight and access to some awe-inspiring experiments and toys!

Science communication company Theatre of Science was founded by actor-turned-physics-teacher Lara Stafford, who uses storytelling sessions, shows and workshops to entertain adults and inspire children to pursue careers in STEM. Most recent projects include Photons and Phantoms: A Science Tour of York, which was delivered to over 300 adults and children as part of the York Festival of Ideas.

Cinderella the Physicist will take place in Yorkshire Libraries including York, Burnholme and Northallerton in early December 2019, and will tour small venues in rural areas in the following years.

Nat Loftus

Project: Moon, Landing

Inspired by the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, this cross-disciplinary project examines the connections between scientific and poetic aspects of humanity's relationship with space exploration and the environment. A collaboration between the University of Sheffield Physics Department (Dr Katherine Inskip/Dr Kristin Lohwasser), Off the Shelf Festival of Words, writer Nat Loftus and visual artist Miriam Stayte, it will fire imaginations and bring people together under an umbrella of culture and science.

Nat Loftus and Miriam Stayte will create an animated poem that will be read in 'phases' like the moon. The enchanting artwork will be hosted online and digitally as part of Off the Shelf Festival of Words 2019 and will be shown on multiple screens simultaneously across the city in a 'TV Takeover' event reminiscent of people everywhere tuning into the televised Moon Landing in 1969.

As part of the 'Ideas Alive' strand of the festival, a panel discussion will also draw together the realities of astronaut training/space exploration with humanity's more philosophical relationship with the Moon. Intended panelists are astrophysicist Dr Katherine Inskip, author Temi Oh, Nat Loftus, Miriam Stayte and moderator Alasdair Stuart.

Suzanne Davies

Project: Art and Astronomy Family Day at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

With the support of the Institute of Physics, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is holding a day of physics-based family learning activities to accompany a special exhibition 'Transformation and Observation' curated by the North East Photography Network.

The exhibition explores photography and the scientific methodologies of observation, experimentation and archiving, and this special event brings together photography and physics in an imaginative way to appeal to families.

The 'Art and Astronomy Day' programme includes mobile planetarium shows, interactive talks and workshops with astronomers from Kielder Observatory, an astro-photography display and arts activities inspired by meteorites from the museum's collection and Kielder Observatory. Families will be able to take part in activities and also visit the 'Transformation and Observation' exhibition.

Our programme aims to increase family visitors' knowledge and understanding of astronomy and inspire them to explore astronomy and physics further. It aims to directly reach 200 people and provide access to world-class astronomy that they otherwise would be unable to see.

Jade French

Project: Small science stories: developing inclusive physics storytelling

This project will develop an interactive physics-inspired storytelling programme for children under five living in Halton, the 27th most deprived borough in the UK (IMD, 2016).

Working in partnership with local libraries and sure start centres, it aims to increase opportunities for families to explore simple physics concepts together in fun and participatory ways both in the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and out in the community.

The stories cover two physics-related topics: 'vibrations and sound' and 'gravity and resistance'. Each 30-minute story has associated hands-on activities that explore physics through everyday scenarios familiar to small children. This project is in response to one of the key conclusions of the ASPIRES report: we must tackle multiple inequalities if we are to remove barriers to learning. The aim of the project is to spark interest in science and build 'science capital' (Archer, 2015) and parental confidence in discussing physics and broader scientific concepts with their family, with the aim of supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds to feel physics is for them.

Mohamed Rahman

Project: Rochdale Physics Extravaganza

The Rochdale Science Initiative CIC's aim is to create inclusive physics engagement opportunities to take directly into the heart of the Rochdale community.

Rochdale's Physics Extravaganza event will be the first of it's kind, targeting under-represented families living in the borough of Rochdale. The event will be a day jam-packed with exploration, discovery, full theatrical science show and experiments for all the family. A united community will celebrate the beautiful spectrum of physics and science.

Rochdale Science Initiative CIC is truly grateful to the IOP for the award as it allows the creation, purchase and showcase of a variety of physics related content with something for the whole family. Also, for the members of Rochdale Science Initiative, this is another opportunity to learn and amplify the relationship with the professional science community.