A Question of Science Engineer It
From strategy to reality Did you know?
Glasgow Science Centre is a charity whose mission is to inspire, challenge and engage everyone with the wonders of science.
From strategy to reality
Stephen Breslin’s background in science and engineering and in education put him in the ideal position to appreciate how our learning needs might change as technology advances. He foresees the need for GSC to take on a more proactive role over the next 10 years, especially in terms of cementing our role as an essential fixture in Scotland’s educational landscape. “The key thing for me is not only to develop the Science Centre as an attraction, but also to develop it as a key educational resource for Glasgow, the West of Scotland and beyond,” says Stephen. “The way that I’m hoping to do that is by increasing our partnerships with academia and industry. I think we can play a very important role as a hub for scientific activity and scientific dissemination, and through our partnerships offer to schools expertise and resources that they would struggle to source on their own.” GSC has a number of responsibilities. One is to encourage our young people to consider further study or a career in science and technology. We aim to increase their level of engagement by making science and technology
“ We must encourage our young people to consider further study or a career in science and technology by making it more accessible and exciting “
Six months into post, CEO Dr Stephen Breslin is rapidly moving forward his strategy for Glasgow Science Centre.
Dr Stephen Breslin CEO
Currently in development to progress these aims are two exhibitions for 2014: the first focusing on the generation of electricity, the second on music technology. Both are at the concept stage. GSC is working closely with the advisory boards which have been established, each comprising members of the relevant industry. Following on from inaugural meetings of these advisory boards, concept documents have been produced which aim to capture the essence of the projects. Powering the Future is set to expose the science and technology behind electricity generation. As well as improving the overall attractiveness of the industry to encourage young people to consider a career in this sector, the exhibition will aim to educate the public on some of the choices we must make to ‘power our future’. When considering oil and gas versus renewables there’s always a trade-off between security of supply and availability, cost and emissions, so it’s not a straightforward decision. Later in the year, ‘Sound Sense’ will explore the science behind how we hear, perceive and create music and sound. It’s another avenue that can be used to engage young people with science and technology, and there will also be an area where visitors can develop their creative skills. Traditionally, interest in the Science Centre for children tends to wane around the age of 11. By creating links to live performance and current acts, the hope is to attract a slightly older crowd of 12 to 16-year-olds to the music technology exhibition.
Get involved Partnerships with academia and industry are paramount to the delivery of projects like the recent Engineer It (see page 3) and forthcoming BodyWorks.
more accessible and exciting, in part by introducing real world applications and everyday engineers and scientists. This is particularly important in helping young people to see that a future in science isn’t beyond their reach. “There’s also our broader role of trying to encourage the wider population to engage more closely with science,” Stephen goes on. “What we’re trying to do is develop a more scientifically literate populace. If you look at some of the challenges and opportunities that science and technology will create in the future, it’s clear that we need a better informed general public who are able to enter into informed debate and make decisions about potentially quite thorny issues.”
Explains Stephen: “BodyWorks will launch in spring 2013, but we couldn’t have delivered the exhibition on our own. It’s not just that we need the financial support of our partners to get a project like that up and running. We must also draw on the expertise and resources of scientists in our local universities and technology companies to ensure that we deliver a really exciting exhibition, which reflects the state-of-the-art innovations in the industry.” It’s a model that Stephen and team are intent on taking forward in evolving the new exhibitions from the drawing board into being. Powering the Future will be the next big thing after BodyWorks. To chat about how you might support either this or the music technology project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Strategy in action
Our October half-term programme of activities brought together a range of partners intent on extolling the virtues of engineering. The success of 2011’s Build It week provided a firm foundation for our team to approach past participants to collaborate further in 2012. Engineer It was also the ideal chance to showcase the work of new partners, like the Jompy team, who had approached us to request public engagement opportunities. Broadening the theme from construction to engineering allowed us to explore with our audience more than nuts and bolts alone. Engineer It also encompassed prosthetics and orthotics, plus bioengineering, a direct result of an exciting new partnership with the Society of Biology.
“ We had between three and six different experts on each day, so it was a very busy seven days “
Tara Gibson Science Education Co-ordinator
“The companies and organisations who joined us for Build It were so successful in their public engagement that they were all really keen to return this year and do it all again,” says Science Education Co-ordinator Tara Gibson. “They all now have an activity that they can do that relates to their type of engineering, and people who have delivered it before, so it makes it much easier. “As a result, we managed to pull together a much broader programme of Meet the Expert activities for the week than we had expected. We had in the Centre between three and six different experts on each day of Engineer It, so it was a very busy seven days.” The following case studies reflect the range of activities on offer and the importance of GSC’s role in serving as a hub for Scotland’s scientific community.
Husband and wife David and Claire Osborne are the team behind the Jompy, an innovative, coiled device that sits on the fire, letting you boil water at the same time as you cook. Primarily aimed at improving sustainability and health and social outcomes in the developing world, the Jompy is also sold in the UK as camping kit (for each Jompy sold here, another is sent by the company to a project in a developing country). “I thought the event was fantastic and I was really surprised by how many children had already heard about the Jompy,” Claire says. “It’s very simple to explain, even without being able to light a fire, and the only thing that the kids couldn’t appreciate from the video we showed was how hot the water gets and how fast it heats up. It takes just 6 seconds to reach 86ºC.” David, a plumber, heating engineer and expert problem solver, invented the Jompy following the couple’s honeymoon in Kenya. He saw that people had only a finite amount of fuel, leading them to have to make impossible choices between boiling water or cooking food. The Jompy ends the need for such decisions, and because it fits the culture, it’s catching on fast – unlike chlorination tablets, commonly perceived as poisonous. It’s exactly the kind of science success story that we soon hope to feature in our new Be Creative, Be Innovative display cases.
Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind Energy Systems University of Strathclyde Previous dealings with Glasgow Science Centre – Director of Science Dr Robin Hoyle and Tara Gibson in particular – inspired Jonny Butler of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Wind Energy Systems to approach us with the idea of collaborating on public engagement. The Centre’s outreach team ran a drop-in workshop about wind turbine design for four days of Engineer It. Visitors were able to play with highly interactive wind turbine demonstrator kits that let you explore how the design of a turbine affects energy capture. Some children stayed for as long as 45 minutes, adjusting the number of blades, changing gear ratios and watching the model power a light, a noisebox or a fan. “Engineer It was the perfect opportunity to see a lot of people and try to engage with many different groups of people at once,” says Jonny. “Usually our audience is limited to one year group in one school, whereas this allowed us to engage with children as young as four or five all the way up to teenagers and their parents.” “It was good to answer face to face some of the more awkward questions around why turbines don’t work in a hurricane, for instance. Encouraging kids to be interested in engineering and physical sciences is also a good thing; we even made contact with primary and secondary teachers keen to host outreach events.”
Did you know? Between April and September 2012, we provided science engagement experiences to 154,000 people. Of this number, 120,000 visitors came to the Science Mall and we took our community and education outreach to a further 37,000 people. Meanwhile, we welcomed 59,492 visitors to Whitelee Windfarm Visitor Centre.
Laing O’Rourke Last year, the international engineering enterprise was responsible for the full-size and remote controlled diggers at Build It. This year, three of the Group’s businesses each delivered a different activity: miniature-diggers were provided for kids to get to grips with; experts demonstrated EDM measuring instruments; and teams of construction ambassadors helped visitors to build a giant tetrahedron from dowelling rods and elastic bands. “Laing O’Rourke is committed to enthusing young people about the exciting opportunities construction and engineering has to offer – and the science centre’s Build It and Engineer It weeks are a fantastic way for us to do this,” says Community and Regeneration Adviser Caroline Gray. “The tetrahedron challenge particularly grabbed their attention – and enabled us to practically demonstrate how construction and engineering can bring maths and science to life.”
Also involved in Engineer It were: • Talis • Transport Scotland • Science Connect • BAE Systems • Scottish and Southern Energy
“ We wanted to work with Glasgow Science Centre because they do great work - I’ve visited numerous times and have been endlessly impressed with it “
Dr Caroline Wallace Senior Science Policy Advisor, Society of Biology
Society of Biology October saw the launch of Biology Week, a Society of Biology initiative to promote all aspects of the discipline. The Society’s Scottish branch was very keen to work with GSC but Engineer It had already been arranged for the same week. Rather than disappoint a potential new partner, Tara Gibson suggested the Society might fit in with the theme instead. “We wanted to work with Glasgow Science Centre because we think they do great work – I’ve visited numerous times and have been endlessly impressed with it,” says Dr Caroline Wallace, Senior Science Policy Advisor at the Society. “So we decided to focus Biology Week on Bioengineering to tie in with GSC. “Everyone was happy and the solution worked really well. In fact, I think if it hadn’t happened that way, we might not have thought of doing something around Bioengineering. So it made us think more creatively, and the people we asked along to demonstrate were fantastic. Everyone in GSC was so helpful too – I was seriously impressed at how they bent over backwards to help me.” The University of Strathclyde Prosthetics and Orthotics Department spent a day showing visitors how imprints of a finger or foot are made and letting people try to pick up sweets using a prosthetic hand. Then, for three days, the University of Glasgow Centre for Cell Engineering set up a ‘Cell Playground’ and explored implantology, the science of replacing bones. Hot on the heels of our first collaboration the Society aims to help us promote our soon-to-launch BodyWorks exhibition.
A Question of Science
So successful was the dinner and quiz at which he presided, Professor Robert Winston found it hard to tear himself away from A Question of Science. “We couldn’t get Professor Winston out of the building because he was so engaged in the quiz,” says Head of Corporate Events Judy Rae with a chuckle. “We had to tell him that he would miss his train back to London if he stayed to find out the answers to the final round.” Like Brian Cox had done the year before, Professor Winston mixed and mingled with guests before wowing the audience with a very engaging presentation. Among those sitting down to dinner and the quiz were leading professors and doctors, eminent scientists and movers and shakers from the corporate world. Our target was to attract 350 guests, but in the end we sold all 400 tickets, achieving a balanced 50/50 split between academia and the business community. It was a PR company that emerged the winner of our science themed quiz – proof indeed that our Question of Science series is very much open to the corporate market.
“ It was a great night, very well attended, good vibe “
The feedback received from the winning team, BIG Partnership, says it all: “Following a thought-provoking and somewhat baffling talk by an esteemed TV scientist and unrepentant moustache enthusiast Professor Robert Winston, it was interesting to note that the science community was able to engage in such rigorous science interrogation and be successful and enjoy it. It was a great night, very well attended, good vibe, people seemed to enjoy it. It was a refreshing alterative to the ‘death by the black tie’ dinner events that we seem to have to attend.”
Did you know?
PLACES project GSC is a lead participant in the five-year PLACES project, which seeks to identify how European Cities of Scientific Culture should look. An August 2012 survey of 100 Glasgow Science Centre visitors conducted by the University of Essex found: •
The majority of respondents enjoyed their visit to the Science Centre, finding a visit more interesting than school science
The building itself is seen as a local landmark
Around 10% had heard of Glasgow City of Science.
Sports Science experts from Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Health and Life Sciences ran six Knowing Sport workshops for schools from 6-8 June. A total of 187 pupils from S2 and S3 learned why exercise isn’t just for Olympians and how to measure Olympic champions. Teacher feedback indicated that the workshops filled a gap: few schools have the equipment to deliver similar experiences themselves.
BodyWorks BodyWorks On Tour made more than 1,100 visits throughout Scotland from Lockerbie to Shetland, taking science to 230,000 participants – from Nov 08 to June 2012. A new, three-year BodyWorks OnTour programme is currently in development. For regular updates on how BodyWorks the exhibition is taking shape, read our blog:
CoderDojo Launched at the Scottish Parliament in October, CoderDojo aims to inspire the next generation of web developers and coders. GSC is to host the initiative’s monthly workshops, which will teach young people how to code and develop websites, apps, programmes, games and more.
Free school visits Glasgow City Council has renewed its commitment to improving access to GSC for a second academic year. All 35,000 of its Primary and Additional Support for Learning pupils will be able to visit us free of charge in 2012/13. The previous year’s pilot initiative led to a 133% increase in bookings from Glasgow schools. To date, we’ve taken 18,611 bookings for the current year.
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whose mission is to inspire, challenge and engage everyone with the wonders of science
Proud to support Glasgow in its aim to become a city of science
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