Cambridge Science Festival: Bigger bangs and squishier squelches

Date Posted: 21/08/2015

Cambridge Science Festival

Carrie Martindale takes a look at what’s in store for schools at the 2016 Cambridge Science Festival.

Bubbling test tubes, minor explosions and Bunsen burners on fire - all happy memories from this writer’s childhood Science lessons. However, that was some time ago and a lot of the messier parts of Science were often out of bounds.

Back in the 1990s a bang from the corner of the classroom was more likely to get you a detention than a round of applause. Luckily things have changed, and teachers now know how much a slightly messy experiment can engage the interests of their pupils.

Take the Cambridge Science Festival for example. With an enticing description that the 2016 event promises ‘bigger bangs and squishier squelches’, you know that the organisers have cottoned on to the fact that most children love the nastier, smellier side of Science. And there are plenty of events that have been designed with schools in mind.

Dr Lucinda Spokes, Cambridge Science Festival Coordinator commented on the event: “Our aim is to enthral and hopefully get a whole new generation interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and medicine.”

Vacuum bazookas and custard fireballs

The first Science day on 12th March is the busiest day of the festival, with close to 100 events taking place across the city.

There will be a huge range of talks, exhibitions and demonstrations to choose from, including the chance to make a solar-powered car and hands-on biology, which involves identifying creepy crawlies, looking at your own cells under a microscope, and bottling your own genes.

The chemistry of light Pete Wothers Photo credit Nathan Pitt

Pictured: The chemistry of light, Pete Wothers (Photo credit: Nathan Pitt).

The CHaOs and Crash, Bang, Squelch events will provide a range of tantalising demonstrations, including vacuum bazookas and custard fireballs, when plants fight back, discover what the Universe is made of, and a plethora of weird and wonderful Science that should have your students spellbound.

The Scott Polar Institute opens its doors for its Look into the Polar Light event. The day is brought to the public by the British Antarctic Survey, Polar Museum and the Museum of Zoology.

Schools visiting the institute will be able to learn how the Northern Lights work, why birds migrate with the light, and how plants in the ocean store up a greenhouse gas.

Real animal specimens from the Zoology Museum will be available to touch and children will be able to find out what changes occur in polar region animals as the light changes with the seasons.

More snot, ice-cream, simulated surgery and robots 

The second Science day, also on 12th March, is at the West Cambridge Site. The Institute of Astronomy, Centre for Mathematical Science, Cavendish Laboratory, Institute for Manufacturing and various departments all open their doors for an entire day of non-stop science demos, talks and exhibitions.

Highlights include the Schools Zone, a range of exciting demonstrations from our next generation of scientists and engineers; an interactive talk, Ten things you didn’t know about ice-cream, where wannabe scientists will discover why ice-cream is not just a cool dessert, hands-on physics, more from CHaOS, and an open afternoon at the Institute of Astronomy to get those young minds marvelling at the stars, planets and the Universe. 

Science on Saturday CREDIT Sir Cam

PIctured: Science on Saturday (Photo credit: Sir Cam).

The Institute of Manufacturing venue promises a range of games, demos, talks and hands-on activities, such as laser lab tours, and the opportunity to make laser etched metal ID cards and a watch from scratch.

For the second Science day on 13th March, the final day of the Science Festival, Cambridge Biomedical Campus will be holding a day bursting with all things medical.

Children will be able to learn about the wondrous way of cells and what can go wrong; try their hand at simulated surgery, enjoy climbing into a ginormous nose, learn why and how we make snot, walk through a giant inflatable colon, and see a demo of the da Vinci robot, which takes surgery beyond the limits of the human hand. 

As the 2016 festival schedule has not yet been finalised, watch this space or the festival’s official website for details of more events, workshops and talks. 

School Travel Organiser's Guide