Rachel Kahn, a second year Biomedical Science undergraduate at the University of Birmingham has blogged about here recent public engagement experience at The Big Bang Fair 2016.
Aside from her research, Rachel is also a science communication and engagement enthusiast, occasional presenter, science writer and baking lover (she definitely considers baking a science). Here’s her story:
British Science Week – The Big Bang Fair from Sarah’s Adventures in Science:
On the 19th of March 2016, I took part in the Big Bang Fair at the NEC in Birmingham as part of ‘Sarah’s Adventures in Science’. The Big Bang Fair aims to encourage and inspire young people to engage and interact with science whilst making the experience fun and enjoyable.
Sarah’s Adventure’s in Science is targeted at young people in KS2, 3 and 4 (although arguably has appeal to all ages, with parents just as excited by the concept) and involves twice hourly workshops where the team would be creating clouds out of dry ice that the audience could touch, see, hear taste and smell, drawing upon all senses.
Let me introduce you to the team:
The first challenge of the day was the 6am wake-up call, a significant hurdle for many, but not when the you have the prospect with playing with dry ice all day. The weather in the morning was cloudy and overcast, which lead to a tweet regarding the rest of the day:
We began by explaining that dry ice was not like normal ice, instead it’s made of Carbon dioxide, and exists at -78 degrees, about the temperature of the South Pole.
The first experiment involved Sarah’s impressive ‘cloud machine’ (pictured) where a volunteer from the audience would be invited up to create the first cloud. Engaging Science should not be about an individual however and after all, we were at the ‘Big’ Bang Fair, so we decided to take this a step further. The audience were asked how they thought we could make a bigger cloud and with more dry ice and more hot water, we created something like this that the entire audience could then see, touch and hear:
So far, we’d used three of our senses; sight, hearing and touch but we were still missing something. The prospect of smelling and tasting clouds caused great excitement among our audience (particularly among the adults in our audience who suggested some great ideas of alcoholic beverages) and using totally safe and non-alcoholic squash we flavoured our dry ice and hot water so the audience could smell and taste our already incredible clouds.
As our show drew to a close, it was time to have a little bit more fun, this time in the form of a bubble shower whereby adding washing up liquid to the water vapour being produced by our dry ice we could great cloudy bubbles for the on looking, mesmerized audience:
As the day progressed, I managed to present the workshop solo twice and hugely enjoyed the opportunity. There was a chance to explore the rest of the Big Bang Fair, although these memories are a little ‘clouded’ by the excitement and beauty of our of course, superior workshop.
The day was also spent making new friends in the small world that is science communication including the Blowfish, The One Shows Marty Jopson, Adventurer Huw James and many others.
I feel hugely thankful to finish British Science Week in such a great and exciting way and can only hope to be involved again in the future. I’ve made some brilliant, hilarious and supportive friends and I am so pleased to have been part of an event that brings science communicators together from all over, and engages the next generation into the bonkers yet beautiful world of science.