Day one in the ‘How Science Works 2011’ household.

It is presenting at events like this one, run by the ThinkTank Museum in Birmingham, that really make you appreciate why you do science communication. Each school in attendance today had the opportunity to sample up to four sessions run by the industry’s finest examples engagement pioneers. This always throws up the same problem though, that of becoming distracted. Not the pupils, but the presenters.

While we are all focussing on how our own session is running, each presenter is, sometimes openly, scoping out how things are with their neighbours. This is not competition, we don’t do that. It is genuine excitement. This is the application if science. This is the real stuff that science is doing in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. This is a communicator’s opportunity to become 12 years old and become enthralled by ‘show and tell’ again. That’s how I felt as I wandered round the room at the cost of my lunch. What did I see?

The view from the step of the candy store was enough to induce science diabetes in even the biggest gluttons of a fun science diet.

First up were the guys from the wildlife trust, focussing on green elements and creating energy from sustainable resources, the cacophony of solar-powered buzzers amongst the most welcome of noises at the event. It told me that the next generation of citizens were seeing the benefits of living on the third rock for the foreseeable future.

For the BBC the future was a more pressing matter, focussing on the upcoming digital switchover for the Midlands region. TV will never be the same, with only the nostalgia of two channels being something we’ll look back on.

For the RSPB, it’s all about what is left behind that actually matters. I only wish that I had previously experienced the chance to mooch through the droppings of an owl to identify what species it was, based on the contents of it’s diet. I had strong flashbacks of recognising the season for peaches, years ago when I worked on the ova, cysts and parasites bench in a clinical microbiology laboratory. Very pretty if you can hold your nose… and owls don’t eat peaches, just to help you get that one.hsw-1-sml[1]

I enjoyed my sessions. All of the four schools that visited me had an individual personality, each picking up on a different aspect of the topic. Starting with Hamstead Hall and through to Hall Green at the end it was a great journey of discovery. I don’t get thrown by many pupils but the conversation that goes, “Ok, so when did you last stab yourself in the head with a fork while trying to eat?” and elicits the reply, “Yesterday” really struck me as being one of the most genuine answers ever offered during the social psychology session I do. Of special commendation were the pupils from King Edwards, Five Ways school, who were a credit to their own hard work and commitment from their teaching staff. Bright as buttons, one and all.

hsw-2-sml[2]However, by far and above the coolest thing I saw today was demonstrated by the NHS. Yes… the, “Can you pop behind the screen please, sir?” NHS. Far from bringing in the left over bits of a PET scanner, these geniuses proceeded to rig them together in the fashion of an anti-matter detector, albeit, a rather Heath Robinson affair. It was enough to reduce me to a seven year old. I not only wanted one in my life, I wanted it in my front room as a work of art. So suspicious of me, following this sight, they dismantled it and took it with them at the end of the day.

Tomorrow I must do something different but will be back on Friday to soak up more fun. Wish I was there tomorrow too. I miss it already.


EXTRA: Here is the link to the official ‘How Science Works’ blog with more pictures and comments from presenters and delegates.