Saturday, 13 February 2016

Light Fantastic Festival January 2016

This festival took place from Friday 22nd January until Sunday 24th January at MOSI, and I was there as a volunteer.  I did 2 sessions the first being Friday evening which was a Light Fantastic LED disco. Initally I was on the front desk which I'd never done before so that was cool. Basically, it was meet and greet, taking tickets and handing out drinks vouchers. There were hundreds of glowsticks to give out too and whilst we wore some ourselves we were amazed at the creativity of the attendees. The disco went on until 10pm and there was a band which included a saxophone which glowed in all colours. That was something to see. At 10pm myself and another volunteer stood on the doors with buckets of sweets to entice people out lol. It was a great night and we all shared 2 taxis home. Although I had taken my camera I didn't actually have it physically on me so sadly I never got any photo's of this event. It was a great night I shall remember though. What a coincidence that a girl who works at the same place as me should be there! There was an installation at MOSI all weekend which completely amazed and entranced everyone including me. I got a few pix of that :) It was essentially a cube of lamps which on closer inspection I was stunned to see where only plastic disposable cups.Amazing! Each person is given a tablet which has a programme on it which controls the lights. Each tablet controls a different colour. You sweep your finger over the tablet to choose the direction of the light. When it hits a light of a different colour then you hear a chime. It is just a soft and gentle chime but could get quite melodious. It was lovely. As well as a few pix I managed to film it on my iphone.Apologies for the voices which seem to drown out the chimes abit. Still I hope you enjoy this as much as we did. I think I managed to capture it well.

                                                   This is what it looked like when switched off >>

Saturday and Sunday were pretty much alike and I hear it was very busy on Saturday. My second stint was all day Sunday. The PI had a vew things to see on the ground floor and to begin with the scientists on each stall were kind enough to tell me what they were doing. I got to see some moon rocks and meteorite which you can look at under a microscope. Also in the centre was a gaming area including Minecraft. I still don't know, which is stupid of me, what that has to do with light. I did learn something though. There were a group from Life Sciences Department who had an analyser worth £35k with them for looking at leaves to see which wavelength is most effective at photosynthesis. Like most people I took it for granted that plants use white light for this. It turns out that this is not the case, they actually prefer pink light. I was amazed but pleased to have learned something I didn't know before.  My final photo is of this platform. 

On this day I spent some of the morning here and some over at the power hall helpingkids make pinhole cameras out of orange cardboard rolls, back paper, duct tape, pins and lights. Then I was meet and greet for the Planetarium which sold out in record time which mean't that for the most part I was turning people away. This was the same story later on when I was in the temporay exhibit area. There were a few things going on there including face painting and making music with a laser beam. I just walked around seeing what was going on and directing people to the toilets. I was on queue control at the end though for the Light Graffiti eent which was ran by an outgoing guy who seemed to be having the time of his life. Then we all tidied up and that was the end. We finished around 5pm and I had managed to buy 2 pendants for myself at lunchtime from the gift shop. And we get to keep our hoodies :D Thank you to all who visited and to the MOSI staff for their great support. You make us want to help and I enjoyed it as usual.  I hope to see you all again in March for the Wearable Technology Festival. Love Sarah xxx 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Saturday, 2 January 2016

My review of 2015. Part 2: July-December

July: Early this month 7th/8th I was delighted to recieve a phonecall from HR offering me the role at Withington Girls School I'd interviewed for last week. I accepted without hesitation and was and am still happy. So later on this month I handed in my notice at Bury College. Goodbye long commutes. Also eary this month I bought a new phone. An iphone 6. This is my first iphone and friends kept telling me I would never look back once I had one of these. How right they are, I am still loving it. They maybe expensive but worth it. I hpe to hang onto this particular model for some years yet! On the 19th of July something amazing happened. I recieved a long email offering me membership on the Board of Scientific Advisors for The Rutger Hauer Starfish Association  Of course I accepted as I love this organisation. I was very happy and floating on a cloud for a few days. It still makes me smile and guess always will. This is definiely a great highlight of the year for me. I then also accepted another wonderful opportunity which will probably be a one off. From Monday 27th until Sunday 2nd August I lived on a boat on the italian Island of Ischia doing whale research. I have blogged about it. A beautiful experience I shall remember fondly but never got to see enough cetaceans ;)
 August: My trip of the year with 3 other fab volunteers came to an end on the 2nd. Nothing else exciting happened this month. I finished working at Bury College on 20th.
September: The first of this month saw me excited and a little nervous to be starting my new job at Withington Girls School. The first day was an induction day and it turns out there were 16 newbies including me. It was interesting and all newbies are lovely people, also including me lol. It didn't take long for me to feel like I've worked there a long time and I mean this in the nicest way possible. Everyone who works here is lovely and we get a nice free lunch everyday. There is even a gym on site too which is also free. All of our girls are nice and clever girls. This school does alot of outreach and feild trips to places within the UK such as Wales and internationally by volunteering in developing countries such as Uganda and Gambia. I will probably volunteer to go to Uganda next year. On Sunday 13th I went along to MOSI for a coffee morning for returning science festival volunteers. Enjoyed it alot and now know who the returning volunteers like myself are. It was good to meet our new coordinator Pen whom I saw alot of during the science festival.
On Wednesday 30th, we had a visit from the Duchess of Gloucester who came to open our new chemistry labs. I expected a hello and or a wave and a smile at the most but she shook my hand and stood chatting for abit. She took her time and spoke to us all. So down to earth as were the people who came with her. She was lovely and we were all chuffed and happy after seeing her.
October: The hightlight of this month for me is always the Manchester Science Festival and I enjoyed it as always. I got to make several visits to Salford University this year and meet more lovely volunteers whom I can only hope to meet again in the future. I have also blogged about each event I worked at on the science festival. 22nd October until Sunday 1st November.
November: There are alot of events going on at MOSI next year. I am not sure why but I do know that our science festival will be 10 years old and so the festival will be even more special. All I know is that a special event devoted to graphene is planned :) Anyway this month I committed to 2 mini science festivals which take place in late January, early February 2016. Looking forward to that too. On the 30 which was a Monday we had a school trip with our GCSE students to The Palace Theatre in Manchester. Science Live!This was a series of talks by well known scientists including Alice Roberts, Andrea Sella, Sir Robert Winston to name just a few! A fab day and nice way to end a month!
December: The first always special to me as it is World AIDS Day and I wore my red ribbon as usual and enjoyed the heartwarming feeling of reading online messages and comments from friends and contacts.
On a personal note, we acquired a new home.Very exciting! We signed the contracts on Thursday before Xmas and then got the keys the folowing Tuesday. Naturally we went and had a look around. Everyday except Xmas and New Years Days we made 2 trips per day moving stuff including one day when buldeirs came with our new bedroom furniture and assembled it for us. I felt bad about them not finishing till Midnight! It took longer than the xmas holidays to move everything and I don't feel like I have had a rest. Glynn and I are both exhausted but very happy.Can't wait to actually move in.

I haven't read any books this year because I discovered free online courses so I still read and learned alot I guess. I did this with Future Learn and boy does the time go when doing thses. I covered subjects such as Food safety, the constellation Orion, science of nutrtion and Internet of things. I will miss these in 2016 but want to spend next year catching up on my reading. On NYE I finally recieved my copy of Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black. A book whose publication I helped fund and thus my name is listed in it at the back. Imagine by surprise and delight when I first go on Twitter today and the first thing I see is that Sue has been awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours list! I couln't be more thrilled for her and what a way to end the year.

So to summarize, the highlights for me are seeing Queen in Concert, changing jobs and homes, joining the Chemists Without Borders and Starfish teams, Whale research in Italy. I hope 2016 is also a good one for me and for you too. Love Sarah xxx


My review of 2015. Part 1: January-June

For me personally, 2015 has been a really good year and of course I am hoping to continue along this vein in 2016. I hope you enjoy reading about my year.

January: I am a lifelong Queen fan and amazingly, I have never until now seen them live in concert. Of course I would have liked to have seen them when poor Freddie Mercury was still alive but this doesn't dampen my excitement.Especially as a good friend has for some time been extoling the virtues of one Adam Lambert whom I have never heard sing before.  I saw them together on 21st at our MEN Arena in the city centre. Watching Brian May is mesmerizing, he really is a phenomenonally skilled guitar player! I also love Adam Lambert too, he has an amazing voice which fits in perfectly with Queen's music I could hardly believe it :D I hope that he and Queen are working and touring together for many years to come. Seeing them once is just not enough and going to their concerts could easily become addictive. This is definitely a highlight of this year already and a great start to 2015. I am happy. A big thank you to my friend for insisting lol that I take notice of Adam Lambert because yes he is very talented and I do like him.
February: On the 10th I went to Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) after work at 5.30pm for Meet the director Sally Macdonald. A nice pleasant evening which began with Sally giving a talk about the AQA A Level curriculum. Afterwards there was a chance to mingle and talk to other invitees with a nice buffet. Then we had a group photo taken. This was a large group and it was fun. I didn't bump into anyone I know and I have still never spoken/met Sally Macdonald though I know her by site and that she is a very nice lady. Perhaps I will meet her in future, perhaps even in 2016. I did have a chat with an astrophysicist who works at Manchester University.She told me all about her work with moonrocks/meteorites.
Personal- on the 14th Glynn and I had a lovely Valentines breakfast for the first time at The Font, Oxford road. The menu was good and predictably we went for traditional fodder.Glynns brekkie was larger than mine but I had a side order of pancakes. We also had raspberry bellini's :D There are 2 Font pubs near us and we have now tried both ofthem several times so I suppose you could say we like them and are regulars. I certainly do like them.Great food and a very extensive range of both draught and bottled beers.
In February of last year I was very happy to discover an organisation called Chemists Without Borders which I promptly joined. I have participated in a few conference calls with them since then. In such a conference on 20th this year there were quite a few of us volunteers. We were invited to become a member of the team and naturally we all accepted. CWB does important work and this is a great honour. I am still pleased about it as you'd expect. I also got hooked up with one of their board members who has her own organisation AIDSfreeAFRICA which does amazing things in Cameroon. I post articles about HIV/AIDS on the AIDSfreeAFRICA Facebook page. Rolande is very complimentary and seems to love the articles I choose. They also seem to reach alot of people which pleases us both. I am thrilled to be able to help in this small way.
March: Time for my annual run to raise funds for the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association, the non-profit closest to my heart. This year on the 15th I ran a half marathon around the Silverstone F1 course. Yes THAT one! Starfish in their loveliness did a webpage for me again on their site. Sarahs Starfish run I am very pleased to have raised £300 for them and always very appreciative of everyone who sponsored me. I have a Facebook page for this run which you can look at if interested, maybe leave a comment too if you want Sarahs Silverstone Half Marathon
April: The end of the Easter holidays saw Glynn and I make a return visit to the wonderful Bletchley Park.We stayed in Bletchley itself from 16th -19th and stayed in the same hotel as last year. Namely Campanille. We were able to use our season ticket which we obtained last time. Also this time we were able to get into The National Museum of Computing which was fab. A real trip down memory lane for geeks and computer owners/lovers. I loved it. All in all this was a lovely weekend and I can't think of (or go to) Bletchley Park without thinking about Dr Sue Black. More about this lovely lady in December :).
May: All personal really this month. Glynn and I celebrated our birthdays which both fell on a weekend this year. I took Glynn to Sheffield for the weekend which is always nice. We stayed in a Travelodge for the first time which was also very nice. Given a choice I would've picked somewhere we hadn't been beofre. Perhaps abroad. That said for my birthday we had a day out at Greater Manchester's Heaton Park which I had heard alot about and amazingly never been to before. It is a big and lovely place. Unfortunately the boating lake was closed but I loved the views and the animals. This month also saw us secure a morgage for our first home. We then viewed a house per day after work. I loved most of them and I enjoy this part anyway. We made an offer on the first house we saw but that was not to be in the end. We do now own a lovely home but more about that in December :)
June: On Tuesday 23rd at 9.45am I had a job interview at a local independent school. It is a great place and just 10-15 minutes from my home. Then in the afternoon we went to look at a house which sadly neither of us were keen on.  On Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th I was at MOSI again doing an event called the Graphene weekender. I'm interested in graphene and had a brilliant time. I have already blogged about that.

I hope you enjoyed this first half of my look back at 2015. Please read part2 as well. The best is yet to come!
Thanks Sarah xxx

Friday, 18 December 2015

ISS get a new british visitor

An historic event took place this week in the UK. On Tuesday 15th December astronaut Tim Peake became the first brit* to go up to International Space Station. He has remained active on social media and seems to be loving it.Who wouldn't? Here are 2 articles covering his first few days about the ISS.

Science doesn't get any more exciting than this. You can follow Tim Peake on twitter to get more or less continuous news and updates @astro_timpeake

Christmas is almost upon us. I have had a fantastic year and will be back to reflect upon it.

Love Sarah x

*In 1991 Helen Sharman became the first brit in space and first woman to visit the Mir space station. She went to Sheffield University and was a chemist to boot!

Friday, 6 November 2015

Last Day...Sunday 1st November

Last day of the Manchester Science Festival that is. So much to see on this last day and I am still sad it is finishing and know from previous experience I will be thinking about it with fond sadness for a while yet. Alot of things going on at MOSI (see website) but I spent the day recuperating and I was excited for tonights volunteer do at the Ball pool. This is a way of saying thank you to us all and kicked off at 6pm. Out of 72 volunteers I would say that most of them were here so that is nice. There was free alcohol and pizza too! I hadn't been sure about the food situ and had some pizza at home, turns out a few of the others had done the same. This didn't stop us digging in! I really enjoyed myself, the lovely converstaions and laughs with people who think the same and 2 go's in the ball pool. We had talked about building a ball mountain when we got in and we did.The fun thing was everyone else outside of our wee group, saw what we were doing and joined in :D At one stage, I picked up a red ball. This was meaningless to me but people noticed and commented, saying things like 'oooh you've got the red ball'. So I began to wonder what this mean't, had I won a prize? Apparently not lol. The STEM team left early, one by one, first of all Pen, and then Marieke but not without saying goodbye as well as how much they loved working with us. I left at 9pm-ish with my table, this includes, Holly, Duncan, Magelena and Charlie. Holly mentioned again at this point that it would be good to have a volunteer facebook group and she would contact Pen about setting one up. I love this idea s I love to keep in touch so hope this happens. Still waiting....So now it really is all over, and just remains for me to say thank you to the STEM Team at/and MOSI for being brilliant as usual. I really did feel appreciated and valued. I loved it and meeting new faces and meeting up again with other returning volunteers. If you have never done this and want to try it out then you really should give it a go. Lets do it all again next year! Check out the pix below and more on Facebook xxx    

The Bar!


My bubblebath :)

View from entrance
Red ball!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Manchester Science Festival continues...

...although I am beginning to feel that the end is nigh. It has been fabulous so far and I know it will be over soon. Too soon, love it! So today, Friday 30th October saw me at MOSI for the day.I spent part of the morning meeting and greeting visitors and then was asked if I would man (or is that woman in my case?!) the adult Ball Pool on the first floor. This is very popular and I had wanted to see it and have a play myself so I jumped at the chance.As it turned out, I was here for the rest of the day and it was ace :D I had fun talking to Alex, another volunteer who was womaning the till/tickets (You see what I did there?) I had to monitor the queue (maximum capacity of 30) and read out the safety guidelines to visitors and make sure they understood and signed the disclaimer. Alex and our festival director, the lovely Marieke, were really pleased with the job I was doing, getting people in to capacity for each session and keeping out the kids. It was thrilling to hear and even though it seems like this isn't much of a job, it all counts and I did really enjoy it. No photo's though.
On Saturday 31st October I did the 'science Spectacular' at Whitworth Hall in Manchester Museum, Oxford Road. This means I was there all day and having done this last year I knew what to expect. I have been looking forward to this very much since I found out I would be doing it. This was an extra day for me and the organisers remembered me from last year which was nice. It was largely the same as last year so I didn't take any photo's of it. Please see last years blog entry about this event for photo's. Sorry about that! Once again visitors were commenting on the beauty of the halls architecture particularly the ceiling. All tables of science were amazing, the turtles were back and as cute and tiny as ever. There was also Graphene, Nuclear energy, Engineers Without Borders, Cancer Research and Life Sciences from Manchester university with their Spirulina and blue smarties. New, to me at any rate was a table about diabetes and I had a good chat with 2 very nice ladies there as my other half now has it. So much fun for the kids, lots for them to do and they can collect a star after each activity and a full card will let them pick up a goodie at reception. I had expected to do some meet and greet at first and it looked that way.   There were science buskers outside and I was asked if I would like to do some busking. I jumped at the chance because I did this for my first 2 festivals and really miss not doing it. So I spent the morning outside Whitworth Hall and then outside Manchester Museum doing this and it made me feel nostalgic for previous festivals. I did straw oboes, balloon kebabs, Alka Seltzer rockets and rope handcuffs. I thought it was a shame there were no lava lamps and I have lost the knack of balloon kebabs but I wasn't the only one.  They proved to be the most popular.There was also the cartesian diver using a water bottle with a sachet of ketchup inside (never seen it done this way before). The busker doing this was such a fun guy and was telling people they could make the sachet move by focussing their mind LOL Computational Biologists eh? There also a volcano demo which was epic! This involved coca cola and Mentoes. I'm only sorry I never got photo's of any of this. After lunch in the new Alan Gilbert building cafe, I was able to take a look around both in the Museum and the upstairs events and ask if anyone needed any help. The museum is having a refurb including getting a new cafe which looks interesting. I had  a look at the current 'Gift for the gods: Animal mummies revealed'. This included being able to activate onscreen mummy scans and was a great exhibit to see. A very peaceful one to walk about alone if you so wish. Also a free drop in event. I really enjoyed all there was to see upstairs. I walked around and spoke to somebody on most tables. One which particularly caught my eye was one which wasn't there last year and was all about diabetes. My interest is in learning how to manage it as my partner was recently diagnosed with type II. The first lady I spoke to was a lovely mexican who has diabetes in her family and I could've  talked and listened to her all day but didn't want to monopolise her. I had told her my plans regarding what I wish to do and she said she loves it when people do things for other's/charity work and said some people are passionate about it. I think I will remember that for a while. At the end of the table was another lady not talking to anybody and there was a poster about diabetes related kidney complications which caught my interest as Glynn only has one anyway. Overall it is common sense really and I only learned one thing. That is, if it gets bad, even type II's can end up taking insulin supplements. There was also a face painter here too. At the end, I hung around at the reception desk looking after everyones belongings whilst they took everything up the road to Suzanne's office and I took down feedback comments from the board. As I was leaving I was asked if I ahd recived my thank you card. I knew nothing about this, it was certainly a nice surprise! Suzanne ruffled though a box behind the desk and gave me a card and a small box of Lindt Lindor chocolates. This makes me smile all the way home with a warm heart. I did feel valued as a volunteer. So thats is it, the festival continued on Sunday 1st November but it is all over now for me. I had a fab time and look forward to next year. Take care!        

I am grateful for any feedback and comments. Thanks for reading and don't be a stranger xxx