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Science of Me

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Overview

Who: Techniquest with its partners including Cardiff University and the University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC)

What: Techniquest ran a special weekend of interactive activities

Why: to give its visitors opportunities to find out more about themselves.

Where: Cardiff

When: November 2010

: ‘How high can you jump, and what difference does using your arms make’, with students from University of Wales Institute Cardiff

Project description

The Science of Me was a special event run by Techniquest for its family visitors on 20 and 21 November 2010.  Techniquest worked with a range of partners, including a number of departments in Cardiff University, Cardiff School of Sport at UWIC, Heart Research UK, Cardiff Anti-Bullying Project, ASH Wales, and Cardiff City Council.  All were offered space on Techniquest’s exhibition floor to run their own interactive activities for Techniquest’s visitors.

Purpose

Techniquest has had a number of requests from schools within Cardiff University to work together, in particular the schools of Medicine and Biosciences, as well as from other organisations involved in health and well being.  Techniquest decided to run a special weekend to celebrate the human body, called ‘Science of Me’ to which it invited all those interested in running interactive activities with Techniquest’s audiences. 

These special weekends, at which audiences are offered additional activities  on Techniquest’s exhibition floor, are always popular with Techniquest’s visitors, and give the exhibition floor a ‘sense of occasion’.  They give Techniquest the opportunity to offer something different to its visitors, and the partners the chance to engage with an audience they may not usually work with in a safe, fun and supportive environment.

Results and outcomes

What worked well

It gave researchers a platform from which to interact with public audiences using their ideas and interactive activities in a fun, safe and enabling environment

We invited those from the university who did not have their own activities to help on the stands of those who did, so giving them the chance to engage with new audiences and to get an idea of what works.

Counting those who work in Cardiff University alone, 47 researchers took part in the weekend, some of them engaging with young audiences for the first time.  Six students from Cardiff School of Sport at UWIC worked over the whole weekend.

All departments/schools involved from Cardiff University (School of Biosciences, Institute of Nephrology, Cardiff institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair, and Neuroscience  and Mental Health Research Institute) and the Cardiff School of Sport at UWIC have expressed a wish to be involved in more public engagement activities with Techniquest.  Techniquest will now run Science of Me annually.

The model worked well.  It would be possible to run a weekend themed on another science topic, such as astronomy, and work in the same way to engage university staff.  We would be happy to share these ideas with other science centres, museums and HEIs.

"We all (including volunteers) thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.  We had bags and bags of positive feedback.  We are looking forward to working with you again, hopefully during NSEW." Dr Vanessa Davies, Cardiff University

“The excitement on the exhibition floor during Science of Me was palpable, with children  finding out more about themselves through fun interactive activities.  The input from university researchers and others, who clearly enjoyed working with such vibrant groups, certainly added to the experience of our visitors.  We’ll definitely make this an annual event!” Chris Mason, Head of Visitor Services, Techniquest

What didn't work well

Some departments could not mobilise quickly enough for the weekend, although those that couldn’t have said that they will be ready for next year.

Resources required

Most of those who supported the events from Cardiff University and UWIC had already developed activities that they brought along to the event.  Some borrowed Techniquest’s resources.  All those who worked with us did not charge us for their time.  Techniquest offered refreshments and lunch to a maximum of three people on each stand.

Top Tips

  1. The opportunity for researchers to be involved in an interactive event at a science centre where researchers will have a keen audience (and one that will definitely turn up!), and where the audience have lots of other activities to engage in is a really easy way for researchers to cut their teeth in science engagement
  2. Invite those who have never done any engagement before to the event to support those who have engaged before (the latter will be delighted for an extra pair of hands), so that the former learn, in a supportive environment, what works
  3. University groups should make sure they take advantage of their science centre for events such as this for help and support.  In our case, Techniquest knew what all researchers were planning to do and gave practical support and ideas (from providing PAT tests to offering Techniquest equipment) to make sure their activities were as interactive/sustainable/fun as possible for our audiences
  4. This support from Techniquest was also offered so that researchers’ involvement was made as easy as possible – given that much of their work on Science of Me was done in their spare time

Contact

Name: Dr Anita Shaw

Name of organisation: Techniquest

Email: anita@techniquest.org

Telephone: (029 ) 2047 5460

Photos

Thumbnail: Operation game from the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair, and Techniquest’s body tabard demonstrated by a staff member from the Institute of Nephrology. Copyright Techniquest

Photo: ‘How high can you jump, and what difference does using your arms make’, with students from University of Wales Institute Cardiff. Copyright Techniquest