Author: Alysha Morgan, Programme Manager/ Rheolwr Rhaglen, HDR UK Wales and Northern Ireland
We recently went out into the community at the Swansea Science Festival – an established event organised by Swansea University to act as a showcase for science and to help inspire the next generation. We did this by conducting hands-on experiments with our data scientists teaching children how to extract DNA from bananas. As part of a wider programme of public engagement, a team from our HDR UK Wales and Northern Ireland site took over a suite at the Wales Waterfront Museum to create a ‘DNA Data Lab’, inviting groups of children to don a lab coat and goggles and get stuck in to learn all about DNA.
We followed this with our experiment, the ‘banana bash’, which allowed them to extract DNA and create artwork to show how their DNA makes them different to everyone else. I admit I looked forward to the event with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Could the children be trusted to use ethanol safely? Had we pitched it at the right level?
The event runs over a week in November with a dedicated family weekend as it invites University scientists to come up with innovative and practical ways to interact with children. It was great to see over 6,000 visitors come along to visit the various exhibition zones such as ‘Land, Air and Space’ and ‘Digital Earth’.
The event was devised and organised by Lynsey Cross, HDR UK Impact and Public Engagement Officer and she ensured the weekend was a roaring success;
“For me, this is the best part of the job – going out into the community, meeting children who are interested in science and seeing their faces when their experiment works. It also wasn’t quite as messy as I had anticipated so we all had great fun.”
We’re keen to engage more widely with people about data science and seek out opportunities to meet a wide range of groups. Research staff from all our specialisms took part over the weekend and it was a great way of developing the skills needed to get the wonder of science across to a new audience – even if we don’t want to see another banana for some time!
Programme Manager / Rheolwr Rhaglen