Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Science Spectular!

This event took place on Saturday 25th October at Whitworth Hall and Manchester Museum. It was an all day event and spectactular it was indeed. So much to see! I went to MOSI for 8.45am first to be briefed and myself and the other lovely volunteer I worked with on this, Victoria Edmondson were put in a taxi at 9.30am and taken to Whitworth Hall. I was not only excited about this event but looking forward immensely to seeing the Hall as I've never been there before. We met our contact Dee-Ann who had a transparent folder with info for us each, we were briefed and given a quick tour. We spent what seemed like a long time in the welcome area reading our info. The event didn't start until 11am anyway and here we met the 2 ladies who would man the welcome desk Suzanne whom we saw the most and I'm sorry the name of the other young lady escapes me.

  We directed people to where they wanted to be and the kids got a challenge card where upon completing an activity, they got a coloured star to put on the card. Once they completed their card and came back here they did a lucky dip to win either a festival bracelet or a purple bug. At one stage I went around asking the researchers if there was anything they needed. This was after going around with speech bubbles asking them why they thought science was spectacular, for the feedback board downstairs. I really enjoyed this, my first taste of what they were doing. I got to see a tank of tiny but very cute swimming turtles. I got to make some graphene too by using the traditional method of scotch tape. It was very sparkly. I hadn't epected it to be so pretty.Then we viewed it under a microscope slide. Just being 1 atom think it was of course the very light bits which are graphene as opposed to the grey and black bits. Happy to have done this as I have always had a thing about graphene. I was happy to see an RSC table about crystallography especially as this is the International Year of Crystallography. I had a nice chat to the guy who told me thi had been dropped on him at the last minute. He showed me an engine turbine with a coating on it and I mentioned to him the Horizon Race for Life film which I suggest he see.
 Whitworh Hall is fantastic with a big old church organ at one end and a great ceiling. Why didn't I think to take a photo? :/

 However the highlight of the morning was Engineers without Borders.  They were downstairs in one of the rooms along the corridor you see in the above photo. A smallish room and I noticed straight away in the middle of it was a bicycle. A guy messing about with a food blender came up and asked me if I would like a smoothie.Surprised by the question, lol but I said 'yes please'. He led me to a table then asked if I wanted to do it myself or to let him. I thought I might as well let him do it for me. So as I watched him chop up fruit and put in the blender I asked that EWB of course do stuff for the developing world and he said yes. He then went and put the blender onto the back of the bike! I said' you don't want me to get on the bike and pedal do you?' knowing the answer was yes lol.So I did and before I knew it I was being filmed but seeing me do this encouraged others to come in and have a go. So I was happy with that and my smoothie. Great fun! I wonder what happened to the footage.  
We had our lunch break and I was fairly cold by now having been stood in the welcome area for a while. Was hoping for coffee and a hot lunch in the cafe but alas no. They had laid on water, apples and small chocolate bars to sustain us. This was lunch too. I think my favourite part of the day was the afternoon when we got to work on a couple of stalls upstairs and chat to researchers. First of all we went on the 'Smart Materials' stall with too really nice guys whom I enthusiatically told I had a Masters in Polymer Science. I got a face full of jargon I hadn't bargained for as they were PDRA's! Kids seemed to love what they were doing putting coloured plastic ducks in water and they then changed colour. Also, lengths of wire into a beaker of water which seemed to magically return to its original shape. Here we met a lovely marketing lady called Sam who works at the uni and whom I now follow on twitter as @theginflip. How is that for a handle? :)

The next stall we went on for the rest of the afternoon was with the Life Science Department and their algae but I learned a thing or two here. They had a jar of pondwater and had taken a sample from  it to put on a microscope slide. Using a laptop and software this was rigged up to a small screen where you could look at the various algae in the pondwater and we got the kids to draw the ones they liked on a postive note which was then put on the nearby board (Algae hall of fame?') There is a wiggly one called spirulina. This apparently used as a blue food colouring e.g. smarties. There is even a picture of it and other bugs on the bag of smartie packets.

This is only the first part. The second part involved extracting the food colouring from powdered Spirulina and I watched as my colleague Victoria guided kids through this. A microspatula of  powdered Spirula is placed in a small pestle and mixed with 1 squeezy pipette full of deionised water. This was placed in a mini centrifuge and the supernatant placed in a portable mass spectrometer to show what the blue food colouring agent looked like. I was enjoying this so much I forgot to take any photo's. Such a mega event all round. Alot of energy and fun in this room! We had plenty of tidying up to do including moving boxes and stuff to Suzannes office just up the road. So we finished at 5pm rather than the expected 4pm. I had an event I wanted to go to at 5.30pm but it is nearby. A book reading at Blackwell's by Mark Avery talking about Martha the last ever Passenger pigeon. It was very interesting and he clearly loves Passenger pigeons. Martha the last one died of old age in Cincinatti Zoo. His interest was piqued because they were extinct and nobody has ever heard of them. Having enjoyed his talk and getting £4 off I bought his book but alas no signature. I love the book shops, a staple and favourite part of the festival for me.

Blackwells Manchester.

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