Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Experimental Weekender: Part 2 Sunday

Once again MOSI put on a nice breakfast for us. I had a custard danish today and was delighted to see mostly the same faces from yesterday. I spent this morning with the microscopes and the highlight for me was of course getting to make graphene myself using the traditional method of scotch tape and graphite particles. I learned that the secret is to make the tape come together in different places each time so that you end up with a powdery looking layer. Takes about 10 minutes. I looked at it under the microscope. Here is a picture of it. The grey and white areas which are letting through light and are difficult to see is graphene :D

Lunch was once again, very enjoyable. Fun chats with fellow volunteers and we joked about how scientists can't function without coffee. I spent the afternoon, on the front table helping kids (and adults!) make sheets of graphene which they could then place on the floor at the back if they wanted to. We were trying to make the worlds largest sheet of graphene. Alternatively, people could make a 'bucky ball' if they wanted too. We didn't get many takers as this is percieved as too difficult. I think only one person succeeded. There were many comments throughout the afternoon about how addicitve and therapeutic this is. I had initially had that very thought myself. We also had the joy of listening to The Graphene Suite again as well.

It was still rather busy at the end of this event and we started to pack up at 4pm. Experiencing a heat wave at the moment we were sent on our merry way with a bottle of water. I don't feel like I have had a weekend but I did have a great time. Thank you MOSI for looking after us. I have always had an interest in graphene and was excited to do this and not disappointed.  Chatting to other ambassadors about what I want to do (HIV research) and one lovely guy to me 'thats actually very cool' for which I thanked him. I appreciate such comments as usually people don't say anything. Myself and the other ambassadors were not really keeping track of time and we stood outside MOSI chatting for a while before going our separate ways. It would be nice to work with them again but I wish them all the best with their futures anyway. I learned alot. I know graphene is the strongest known material but now I know that it used to be the spiders silk thread. Also it can be made in the lab by CVD (Carbon Vapour Deposition) I learned that it can be used in the body to direct drugs to the affected area. Also graphene lightbulbs may be on the market next year! From the questions I was asked it was clear that some people are aware of graphene and wanted to know about its applications whilst alot of people wanted to know what it is with genuine interest. The visitors obviously had a great time which makes this all the more worthwhile. I will leave you with some feedback which they gave. I hope you found this weekend through my eyes interesting too.

“fabulous guides”
“I have learnt lots about what graphene is and what it is made of”
“[I learnt that] graphene is the thinnest material you can make and it was discovered in Manchester”
“It’s the strongest material in the world”
“I learnt how to make a microscope”
“Being a scientist or STEM Ambassador is really interesting”
“I have learnt about STEM jobs, super materials, nanotechnology and nanometres”
“I learnt what motivated the scientists to do what they do now”
“I learnt how to pursue a scientific career”


The Experimental Weekender:Part 1 Saturday

I spent last weekend, 27.6.15 and 28.6.15 at MOSI in my role as a STEM Ambassador participating in an event called The Experimental Weekender. This was all about the wonder stuff known as Graphene. Although on both days the event was 11am until 4am we had to be there around 9am for a briefing. MOSI were kind enough to offer us a light breakfast of coffee/water and warm danish pastries. Very tasty, I had a cinnamon one, thank you! Better than this though whilst enjoying our refreshments it was nice to sit around a table, meet and chat to fellow Ambassadors. This event took place on the ground floor but other things were going on too. There was a circus and a funfair and an event in the power hall called electric pencils. Here people are invited to draw or scribble on a piece of card, then an LED is placed along the drawing and the circuit is complete as the LED lights up proving that graphite/graphene conducts electricity. Very cool! On Saturday I had my first taste of everything, and familarised myself with each activity. Some of the other volunteera are graphene scientists and very nice people they were too.Very happy to have met them. I made a 3D shape put it on a wooden skewer and then held it up to a large computer screen with various 2D shapes on it in shadow. This is a way of identifying a 3D shape. I then spent most of the day on one specific activity which was a demo illustrating how drug delivery systems work. It was a heart and lungs which had 2 squeezy pumps on the end of tubes to force the water (which represents blood) around. At various points there were iron oxide particles in the tubes representing nanoparticles.

We would get people to squeeze the 2 pumps whilst explaining what was happening. We had a magnetic cube too and a jar of water containing iron oxide particles. This allowed us to show what was happening on a larger scale as our model unfortunately wasn't working too well. As the water (blood) circulates, and you place the magnet near some of the iron oxide particles they all move together and congregate at the magnet. Once the magnet is taken away, the particles quickly separate and move away. We then placed the magnet near to the jar and see all the particles move in a big splodge towards the magnet and would also follow it. This illicited 'oohs' and 'ahas' of amazement from children and adults alike. A nice feeling. We had to be careful with the magnet because the table legs were made of steel and it can wipe phones in close proximity. I did make a loud noise on the table once, before I was aware of this but others did too throughout the event :)

At one stage a graphene scientist stepped into a nanotube and had trouble getting out of it. Fun to watch!


MOSI had a musician in residence who had composed some music especially for this event. She played with an orchestra giving us snapshots of this new work for 30 minutes at a time. It was beautiful and had a calming influence.
 At one stage quite a crowd had gathered with some people even sitting on the floor. This lovely orchestra was called The Graphene Suite.

There were 2 sittings for dinner and I was asked to go on the first one. A lovely buffet was set up for us, in the room where we'd had our briefing. There was a good selection of sandwiches, mini spinach flans, potato wedges (replaces with sausages and apple slices on Sunday), a selection of fruits, brownies and flapjack. A choice of tea, coffee, water and 3 fruit juices (apple, orange and cranberry). This was once again a great chance to talk to the others. After lunch I resumed what I was doing and watched what was going on around me, watching people, that is visitors and Ambassadors alike enjoying themselves. It remained busy and we started to pack up at 3.45pm. I left happy having had a great time and knowing I would be doing it all again tomorrow.

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