This year’s Lancashire Science Festival – A Pupil’s View

So, obvously everyone here at Engage UCLan loves the Lancashire Science Festival – and we were just blown away by the success of this year’s event. But we also love to hear how other people, whether they be exhibitors, staff, visitors, teachers or pupils felt about it. Whether the feedback is positive or negative it all heps to shape future Science Festivals, but to be honest when we receive letters like to lovely one below, it just makes us grin from ear to ear!

Dear Lancashire Science Festival,

We are writing to tell you about all the fun we had at the Science Festival at UCLan. Thank you for inviting us, we had a great time!

When we arrived we went into a room and listened to the science band and learnt about neutrons. We especially loved the song about gravity! The glowing words were awesome!

After that we went to see Titan the Robot. He was really funny and we liked it when he squirted water at everyone! We all thought it was amazing that Titan could move by himself without any help.

Then we went into a room and learnt about a film called RoboCop. We saw that scientists make electronic hands that move the same as normal hands! We thought that it was cool what science could do. We met a robot called Monty and she was really cute (for a robot!).

We had lunch and then we went into a big hall full of different stalls. There was a stall where you could get your finger printed. Our favorite stall was where we got to spin around on a chair.

Finally we went back into the room we went in to watch the science band, but this time there was a mad scientist! He was amazing. Did you know that camels spit instead of sweating? He told us that!

Sadly we had to go home but it was a great experience. Our favourite part was seeing Titan the Robot.

Thank you again for inviting us, it was amazing!

This fantastic letter was written by two Year 5 pupils from Middleforth C of E Primary School. We’re so glad that you had as much fun as we did!

Jenny VERY happy afetr receiving the lovely letter!

Jenny VERY happy after receiving the lovely letter!

LSF - Power Up logo (CDM version)

UCLan’s Lancashire Science Festival 2014 Power Up exploded science fun all over campus for all ages. The many many months of planning were all defiantly worth it – the team had an amazing time and we have all finally got our sleeping patterns back to normal after all the crazy science chaos. This year’s festival nearly blew the roof off the university with three jam packed days, with over 6500 visitors, two sell-out evening events, the incEdible Bake Off and a #LSFSelfie competition! We also ran out of visitor lanyards, which we thought near impossible! We would not have been able to make the festival happen without the support, friendliness and enthusiasm of our sponsors, colleagues and friends so we would like to say a great big thank you.

IncrEDIBLE cake off

Our IncrEDIBLE Science Cake-Off judges!

Feedback from the general public, school groups, head teachers and families has been wonderful here are some of the lovely comments we have received:

“To everyone involved in today’s fantastic festival…THANK YOU!!!! You have made 12 very keen scientists even more inspired and eager to join the world of science! Our children loved every moment of the day; from organisation to entertainment, you ticked all the boxes!” Science Coordinator, Devonshire Primary School

“Without doubt it is my favourite festival to work for. I’m always impressed by the professionalism, enthusiasm and friendliness of all the staff” Matt Pritchard, the Science Magician

“The Science Festival is just one example of an agenda that we’re really good at and I’m very proud to be the VC of a university that is leading the way in”- our VC, Gerry Kelleher

Titan - Saturday 1

Titan and the crowds on our general public day

The new aspects of the festival – Lancashire Science Festival Lates were a huge success with both selling out! The Festival of the Spoken Nerd session was full of geektastic fun and comedy – we loved it! Our other late session was an adult only Surgical Spirit: The Science of Cocktails were attendees listened to the fabulous mixologist, who talked everybody through the science of alcohol, and how could we forget the 5 free cocktails!

Planning for next year’s festival has already started so watch this space. The team feel a little bit sad and mopey; without the yellow t-shirts, walkie talkie code names and bizarre to do lists of having a festival around the corner! We can’t wait to turn UCLan’s campus into a science frenzy zone again next year and always we promise it will be bigger and better than ever.

Zoo Bus - snake 1

The amazing Dr Mike with two science mad students and a snake!

Lancashire Science Festival

Our annual Lancashire Science Festival is back with a bang this year. We’ve got a super dooper exciting programme suitable for everybody! Bookable sessions run on all three days – 26th-28th of June, with days designated to both Primary and Secondary school groups! We have over 2600 school children attending over our two school days! Workshops will run throughout all three days giving our science mad guests a chance to experience aspects of a wide range of courses available at UCLan. These range from the electricity of dance, exploring the qualities of movement in electricity and the importance of connections in developing circuits with our physical presence; to experiencing a brain stimulating trail in our Moot Court Room, which will power up our guests to protect and promote their rights and beliefs! It’s all very exciting, especially when we are still confirming new thrilling and intriguing workshops – watch this space.

Another new aspect of our festival this year is our two ‘LancSciFest Late’ events, which are both set to be absolutely fabulous, giving adults a chance for some 18+ science fun and comedy. We are lucky enough to have a The Festival of the Spoken Nerd session, hosted by award-winning geek songstress Helen Arney, stand-up mathematician Matt Parker and BBC 1 science experiments guy Steve Mould. It is sure to be a celebration of science with comedy, songs, live experiments and of course, unashamed geekiness. Our second late event is the Surgical Spirit: The Science of Cocktails, which investigates the physiology of booze and the science of mixology, whilst sampling a selection of cocktails!

Need we say more – Lancashire Science Festival Power 2014 is sure to blow our previous year’s science festivals out of the water!

Community Impacts of Shale Gas

On Thursday 27th March, the Public Engagement Unit was involved in supporting a public lecture held by Professor Kathryn Brasier, from Pennsylvania State University. The lecture was part of UCLan’s Distinguished Visitor Programme which makes funds available to bring eminent people in their field over to UCLan. Professor Brasier’s lecture was entitled ‘Community and Economic Impacts of Shale Energy Development in the US: Research Summary and Considerations for the UK’ and was supported by UCLan’s Centre for Sustainable Development and Professor Joe Howe.

Prof Kathryn Brasier and Prof Joe Howe

Prof Kathryn Brasier and Prof Joe Howe

Obviously shale energy development is a big topic for the UK at the moment and especially for residents of Lancashire, as it is here (specifically around the Fylde coast) that some of the first shale energy development is being conducted. Commonly known as ‘Fracking’, this is a process that uses hydraulic pressure to horizontally fracture shale to release that natural gas that is held within it.

Last week, David Cameron was quoted as saying that the development of unconventional gas is good for the UK (paraphrased), but it is clear that there are many people that disagree with this. And there also seems to be a further large sector of the community that doesn’t really know what to think either way (myself included). It was on this point that Prof Howe (in his introduction of the lecture) called for an increase in research funding to enable further investigation into the impacts of shale energy development (‘fracking’), especially looking at the impact on local communities.

Professor Brasier introduced herself as a sociologist, whose research involved looking at how the developed shale energy industry in the US (especially around Pennsylvania, where the industry has been underway for some years) had affected communities in these areas. The point of the lecture was to look at how things had worked in the US, to see if we could then take considerations for how the industry could/would affect communities in the UK.

Specific points that Professor Brasier made included issues apart from those of the actual process of ‘fracking’ i.e. the approximately 2 week process of fracturing the shale the release the gas. She presented images of what the extraction sites actually looked like, with numerous large water tanks and massed heavy machinery and looked at how this had affected the local community e.g. the effect of heavy machinery on local roads and infrastructure.

Issues were also raised about how the local communities changed such as;

  • the effect of an influx of workers
  • increased locals jobs
  • the development of local commercial ‘hubs’, with ‘spokes’ out to the gas extraction sites
  • the juxtaposition between ‘shaleionaires’ (those who had sold the mineral rights of their land) and local unskilled workers
  • local inflation
  • the effect on local housing

There are also many concerns, both here and in the US, about the environmental impacts of the shale energy development industry, and it seems that this is something that hasn’t been fully researched. Professor Brasier’s work highlighted that in Pennsylvania the community feeling about the industry on the whole seemed to be a hope for better jobs juxtaposed with a concern about the natural environment and water quality; “This could be a good thing, if it’s done right”

The conclusion of Professor Brasier’s lecture called for an onus on public and community engagement within these shale energy development areas. The communities often had issues of trust with both the government and with the shale energy development companies, and that these issues arise long before the gas does. There also seems to be a lack of understanding of the process and that this is causing there to be a ‘rumour mill’ around the issue, with people seeming to be crying out for more information, but also to be involved in the production and dissemination of this information. Rather than simply preaching facts at the public, there is a requirement to truly engage with them. This does not necessarily mean formal consultation, nor does it necessarily mean protest. It’s about engaging with the public and community from the outset, as after the event the trust is gone, and finding new ways in which to involve and engage.

As the Public Engagement Unit at the University of Central Lancashire, this is something that we are committed to being part of.

Science Centre World Summit 2014

I’m Liz and I’ve just started in the Engage UCLan team. Over the next couple of years I’ll be doing lots of STEM activities and workshops with school students, as well as helping out with other public engagement projects.

Last week Jo and I were lucky enough to attend the Science Centre World Summit (SCWS) 2014, in Mechelen, Belgium. The conference brought together lots of interesting people from across the globe who worked in science centres, universities and other science communication and community-focused organisations. It was held in the rather awesome Technopolis. The science centre has an incredible range of interactive exhibits that communicate many areas of science, to all ages.

I may look like a giant here but I'm actually on a segway.

Jo and me at the conference: I may look like a giant here but I’m actually on a segway. That’s right – they had segways!

When we weren’t looking round the fab exhibits (we also got to see the largest dinosaur bones collection in Europe at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, who helped organise the conference), we got a chance to go to some really interesting talks on engaging different people with science.

One of the dinosaurs in the amazing collection

One of the dinosaurs in the amazing collection.

One of the sessions that stood out for me was about Maker culture and the Maker faires that are popping up around the globe. Jo and I had a go at some of the maker activities in a pop-up maker space and after a bit of a struggle with a soldering iron (I am not a natural) we managed to make some rather jazzy flashing badges.

My snazzy flashing badge.

Another session I particularly enjoyed was about the importance of science and learning with early-years children. It is amazing how much cognitive development takes place in the first few years of life and the session explored some of the ways you can engage young children with STEM to help them understand the world around them and develop critical thinking. There is a space in Technolopolis full of exhibits and activities for early-learners. Jo and I explored it and we got a little bit creative with the foam Lego.

Our giant foam Lego creation. It stands for Lancashire Science Festival.

Our giant foam Lego creation. It stands for Lancashire Science Festival.

SCWS 2014 was a great conference, with lots of really interesting sessions relevant to the work we do here at Engage UCLan. One of my favourite things about the summit was the warm and friendly atmosphere. There was a real feeling that it was a place you could openly discuss ideas, share best practice and explore collaboration. I’m sure the next summit in Japan 2017 will be just as good!

Take Part in the Lancashire Science Festival!

LSF 2014 Showfloor Call Out!


Calling all exhibitors for the Lancashire Science Festival 2014!

This year’s theme is Power Up! So we are looking for any interested parties to send us details of their ideas for their showfloor stands.

We have a maximum capacity of 20 stands on the showfloor and so will be judging all entries competitively. We are looking for stands that can really bring science to life, with fun and engaging hands-on activities.

The Lancashire Science Festival will be running from 26th to 28th June 2014; the 26th June being open to Primary Schools, the 27th to High School and Colleges and the 28th being a general public day, so we are looking for stands that will appeal to all ages and abilities.

The ethos behind the Lancashire Science Festival is to inspire people to think more about science and how it affects them and to encourage thought and debate, in a really fun atmosphere. As this year’s theme is Power Up we will be looking for stands that fit into this. Think along the lines of Power Your Brain and Recharge Your Batteries, Up Up and Away, Energy, The Power of Your Body, Engineering and The Power of IT. But don’t let this constrain you, think outside the box!

Please contact for an application form and ensure that all entries are returned by 31st January 2014, so that the selection process can begin.

The Sun at Night at BBC StarGazing Live

The Sun at Night

The Sun at Night

On Thursday 9th Jan, the Engage UCLan team were lucky enough to be invited to take the amazing art installation, The Sun at Night, down to one of the BBC’s StarGazing Live events at Royal Holloway University in Surrey.

The Sun at Night is a project devised by staff from The University of Central Lancashire; Artist in Residence, David Henckel and Lecturer in Music, Dan Wilkinson. It features a 4mx10m cylindrical, back-lit projection screen. This shows high resolution images of the sun, taken by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. A year’s worth of these images has been compressed into a 30 minute film that is projected whilst being slowly rotated around the circumference of the screen. The film is accompanied by a deep and sinister soundtrack that has been composed to mirror the images. The Sun at Night aims to explore our relationship with our closest star and to provide a new and creative way to disseminate the SDO’s research.

After a successful premiere in Preston’s Victorian Covered Market in November 2013, the installation came to the attention of the BBC who then invited us to take The Sun at Night to the live event that was accompanying the Stargazing Live TV show on Thursday 9th January. Obviously we were over the moon (to stick with the astronomical theme) about this, and so packed up the structure and our bags and made our way down to Surrey for the event.

The structure going up

The structure going up

The size of the structure does pose some issues, especially with the wind, but we took our anemometer and luckily the wind speed never exceeded our safe limit.

Jo checking the wind speed with our now beloved anemometer

Jo checking the wind speed with our now beloved anemometer

The set-up of the structure went really smoothly, with the help of some really amazing contractors from TouchLine Fabrications and a great projector from AtoV, and so come the arrival of the 4000+ public visitors we were ready for action.

Testing the projector as the light fell

Testing the projector as the light fell

Professor Robert Walsh, Dr Daniel Brown and other members of the UCLan Solar Group, Andrew Walker and Peter Zelina also came down for the event, so along with David, Dan, Jo and Jenny (when kitted out in our fabulous yellow hoodies) we were a swarm of Sun at Night commentators. We had some great discussions with the event attendees and a great time explaining to people exactly what The Sun at Night was and then letting conversation spark (along the lines of a Coronal Mass Ejection – we know all about those now!) from there.

The yellow hoodies – ready to tell you about The Sun at Night

Have a look at the video on for a taste of what the installation and event was like – in short…brilliant!

We are already looking forward to possibly taking The Sun at Night to the BBC Media City in Salford later this year and have also had interest from the production company that worked on the event to take it on a touring roadshow.

And the best bit….we got on the telly! At the beginning of Thursdays StarGazing Live show on BBC2 the Royal Holloway event was described as having ‘the most awesome projection of the sun’ and then the 3.5 million viewers were treated to a tantalising glimpse of The Sun at Night. Hooray!