Sunday, 24 March 2013

Science in the Park 2013 - Pt2

Following on from Part 1 of this report, here is more coverage of the rather wonderful “Science in the Park” event recently held at Wollaton Hall.

Dancing Robots and Virtual Gloves
A team from Nottingham Trent University were showcasing a variety of technologies being developed to aid those who are currently marginalised to enter the workplace or recover from injury more quickly. One example of this was a “virtual glove” that was being used to help stroke victims recover.

Virtual Glove to aid recovery of stroke victims

While other research involves using robots to help those with autism to relate better to their surroundings.

Robot to aid autistic children, but today dancing "Gangnam Style"

And information was also available on the “PAUSE” project, which is delivering real benefits in allowing refugees and immigrants to enter the workplace.

Physics Buskers
The Physics department were on hand to provide some interesting demonstrations of how the world works. Most notable of these was perhaps the fact that a potato can be pierced right through with a simple plastic straw - which highlights the effect of having a small surface area (the edge of the straw) can have on how a materials interact.

Physics Buskers !

By the end of the day it was utter carnage on the potato and straw table - is this something the ethics committee needs to be aware of? Potatoes have feeling too !

Cardboard Imagination
Rather winningly, the event had filled an area with cardboard boxes of various sizes and challenged the visitors to make bridges that crossed a long span without being very heavy or use their imagination to make other constructions. Amongst many creations on the day, perhaps the stand out construction was “Buttons”, a robot created by youngsters Lorne and Finn (together with a little help with their Dad)

Something for you to try at home?

Cardboard - the toy Lego don't want you to know about...

"Buttons" by Lorne and Finn

The Solar System at Wollaton Hall
The BSA themselves were presenting handouts that showed what the solar system would look like of shrunk down to the size of Nottingham - NSB was delighted to see that they had taken the old skool approach of including Pluto as a planet.

The Inner Planets at Wollaton

.., and here are Jupiter and Saturn

..while Pluto would go through Forest Rec!

A few other observations
Despite the very unseasonal snowy weather, the event was busy all day, which was heartening to see.

Great too see a good attendance at the event

Scientists have a pretty groovy sense of humour, a good example of which was captured on this T-shirt worn by an NTU Physicist

It's a Ferrous Wheel ! Geddit?

NSB is used to seeing posters saying “Know your healthy foods”, "Know your rights" or even "Know your traffic signs" - but was amused to see a poster at one of the stands which, winningly, asked readers to “Know your Neurotransmitters”

Know your neurotransmitters!

With a slightly different hat on, it was great to see that the teabags in the volunteers break-room were Fairtrade - showing that scientists have as much of a conscious and awareness of the environment and ethical issues as anyone else.

Scientists drink it Fairtrade

Lastly, NSB thought it might be worth mentioning that these events are a great opportunity to ask researchers the difficult questions that they might not have previously considered, as they are likely to be focussed on their immediate research. For example, NSB asked questions such as why cochlear implants weren’t cheaper, how the efficiency of solar cells has improved over the years, and how light knows when to reflect and when to refract. It is surprising how often these very simple questions put the researchers very much on the back foot, with one commenting that NSB was “asking more difficulty questions than my supervisor”. With much research being done with public funds, NSB would certainly urge the public to quiz the researchers on what they are doing.

Also some of the people manning the stands are not students in the subject the stand focuses on, so it is a great opportunity to find out more about completely different subjects. In this case, NSB had an interesting discussion with someone who was something of an expert in how Hollywood movies are made, and what it takes to convince studios to reduce unfairness or stereotypical portrayals in their movies.

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