Published on: 25th September 2017
Taking the National Waterfront Museum by storm, the first annual Swansea Science Festival was a massive hit with families and other festival-goers with more than 9,000 people attending on 8th to 10th September, giving the museum a record number of attendees. The festival showcased a diverse set of research from Swansea University, the festival sponsor, and other science-related organisations from South Wales with interactive, hands-on exhibits.
Volunteers from the Health Informatics Group, representing research across four research centres (Farr Institute CIPHER, National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing, Administrative Data Research Centre-Wales, and SAIL Databank) set up a ‘Data Fun Zone’ to display the work happening inside the University’s Data Science Building. For example, researchers from the HAPPEN project (Health and Attainment of Pupils in a Primary Education Network), a network of health, education, and research professionals aimed at improving health, well-being and education outcomes of primary school children, created a messy play zone attracting younger visitors with crayons, glitter, and rice, amongst other materials.
“In the HAPPEN zone, children were really engaged in drawing their emotions and feelings on paper plates, and we saw a variety of creative designs. It was also great to chat to their parents about the research we do with primary schools, in particular, the Daily Mile and outdoor learning projects. An added bonus was meeting parents that were already aware of some of the projects that we are delivering in their child’s school!” said HAPPEN researcher, Emily Marchant.
Another ‘Data Fun Zone’ was led by the team from ACTIVE (Active Children Through Individual Vouchers – Evaluation). The ACTIVE project aims to tackle the barriers to activity faced by teenagers through a multi-faceted intervention, giving teenagers vouchers to spend on activities of their choice and empowering young people to improve their fitness. To give the public an idea of the kind of data collected by ACTIVE, festival participants were invited to have their blood pressure taken before and after doing 30 seconds of maximum exercise with slam balls. The healthier and fitter the participant, the less their blood pressure rose due to increased elasticity in their blood vessels.
The last of the zones was a data visualisation project using Virtual reality headsets, which embedded the viewer inside two datasets. The viewer could see the “shape of data” that data scientists look for captured in models to see how a phenomenon, such as a disease, is behaving.
“Kids are naturally drawn to the VR goggles, of course, but in the end, it was the parents who ended up hogging them. It’s great to see people getting engaged with scientific work and enjoying their time just as they would do in a fun fair,” said Athanasios Anastasiou, creator of the Virtual reality animation and Farr Institute CIPHER Capacity Lead.
With the success of the festival, the organisers plan to make it a reoccurring event. The Swansea Science Festival followed suit from the previous year’s British Science Festival, also hosted by Swansea University.
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