Exploring the Festival
I had an afternoon volunteering shift (1:30-5) on 28/09/17 but I came in in the morning so I could explore the festival. I am incredibly glad that I did. I would describe the event as comic con for scientists (and I love both comic con and science). I got to hold a stick insect, have a play on VR, build a salt water-powered car, distribute monkeys at the correct zoos for breeding, explore a planetarium, see naked mole rats and a lot more. What amazed me was that it was not just about science. My boyfriend is not in any way interested in science so I thought he would not enjoy the event but, actually, I think he would have loved it (sorry Phill!). There were so many contraptions and robots and gizmos. I found myself really absorbed in everything that was going on. It also was not very busy, with it being a Thursday, so I was free to wander and have a go on the activities as much as I fancied.
I was actually really sad by the time 1:30 came around. I had really enjoyed my day- so much so that I had actually forgotten to eat lunch! But, as I set out the activities I had brought along with me, I started to feel more excited (and nervous) about actually volunteering on a stand.
My activity consisted of a flashcard game that I had made, with some of the process used to treat drinking water. Visitors to my stand had to try and put the cards in the right order and doing so would win them a sweet. This was my hook, to get people to come over and interact with my stand. Once they were interested and had completed the game, I asked them what they thought the difference was between bottled water and tap water and if either was better than the other. I did chlorine testing on samples of tap water (taken from the women's toilets!) and bottled water to show them the presence/absence of a chlorine residual. My "Ask a Biologist" question was "Why is chlorine in my drinking water?" (the answer to which can be found in the Youtube video), which I would then explain, with the use of some giant microbes and my other props.
From the very beginning, it went really well. All day, there was a nice steady flow of people at my stand. There were enough people to make the time go buy quickly but enough time to spend with each person so that I had some really good conversations. I was really impressed by how interested the public were and how they gave my activity a go. Overall, it was definitely worth a day out of the office!
- Bring something that people can play with, to get their attention and interest
- Fill your stand with objects. There are loads of interesting things at the festival so you've got to think hard what would attract people. Why would they want to come and listen to you?
- Be brave and give it a go! Honestly, I was really nervous but I had such an excellent time- it was definitely worth it!
- People are more interested in your research than you would think. They care. They are interested. It's a real moral booster.
- If you are having an interview, practice first! It's a lot easier to talk to the public than talking to a camera!