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Lets experiment with Science Week

PUBLISHED: 08:27 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 July 2010

Simon Parkin

Kids are a dab hand at science and technology, but if the last time you donned the lab coat was at school, the National Science Week is hoping to enthuse us about the science behind everyday miracles. SIMON PARKIN reports.

More about events in Science and Engineering Week.
More about events in Science and Engineering Week.

Kids today are a dab hand at science and technology, but if the last time you donned the lab coat and lit a Bunsen burner was at school, the National Science Week is hoping to enthuse us about the science behind everyday miracles. SIMON PARKIN looks at how to get involved.

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For many people of a certain age school science lessons mainly involved copying diagrams from ancient books and wondering what relevance the lifecycle of a frog had to do with anything.

But in recent years there's a revolution in school science labs with the emphasis on making science not only fun and interesting, but relevant to our world.

Practical experiments virtually every lesson, vibrant and enthusiastic teaching, debates about the ethics of everything from genetics to nuclear power, and showing how science is all around us every day,

And even people who previously shuddered at the distant memory of learning periodic tables and weighing beakers of water are finding their interest in all things scientific re-ignited like an old Bunsen burner. Science - and its more trendy cousin technology - are enjoying something of a renaissance.

Sales of popular science books have seen a rise, helped most famously by Norfolk-based Bill Bryson's hugely entertaining look at the basics of scientific discovery, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Television too has also rediscovered its enthusiasm for science, years after they ditched that old mainstay Tomorrow's World.

Last year the BBC launched a sort of modern version, Bang Goes The Theory, which proved popular and returns next week for a second series. James May and Richard Hammond have also added some Top Gear revs to the subject, presenting pop science programmes.

National Science and Engineering Week (which this year runs from March 12-21) hopes to continue this trend with masses of events to involve the whole community in anything from have-a-go experiments in wind technology and construction to exhibitions of Darwin's Beagle.

Funded by the Government's Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and coordinated by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, it aims to take science to the public, rather than waiting for us to find science.

Nationally there are about 2,000 events running throughout the whole 10 days with the aim of celebrating science, engineering and technology and its importance in our lives, and there is plenty to do locally.

The topics covered are hugely varied and there's eclectic mix of events suitable for people of all ages and abilities. All it requires is an inquiring mind.

ROCKS OFF!

Castle Museum, March 13/14, 10am-5pm (Sat), 1pm-5pm (Sun), 01603 493625, www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk

Fossils, lichens, chalk and sand will all come under the microscope at a host of events this weekend as National Science and Engineering Week gets under way.

Norwich Castle Museum will host this fun event that will take place in and around the newly refurbished Natural History Galleries and visitors can bring along their own fossils for expert identification.

They can also make layers of rock with sand and shells, discover lichens and take part in a national survey, use a centrifuge to discover how chalk was made and make fat balls to feed the birds.

Activities will be led by students from the University of East Anglia, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Geological Society of Norfolk and staff from Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. All the activities are drop-in and free with museum admission.

PAPER TRAILS

Children's Library, The Forum, March 13, 2pm-3.30pm, free admission, 01603 774740, www.norwich.gov.uk

Take along your youngsters to this free craft in session to find out just how much fun science really is. All materials and help will be provided by staff from the library and the Inspire Science Discovery Centre. Activities will all be suitable for children aged 5+, but all kids under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.

ROBOT PROGRAMMING

Inspire Science Centre, March 13, 11.30am, workshop free, normal admission charges, book places on 01603 612612, www.inspirediscoverycentre.com

Robotics are used throughout the world to automate manufacturing, help in situations which endanger human life and are even used in space. Inspire here celebrates the world of robotics Enter The Mindstorm a special workshop presented by Dr Stephen Laycock and Dr Ben Milner from the UEA School of Computing Sciences.

During this interactive session you'll be able to learn how to program Lego Mindstorm NXT robots to move and navigate using its sensors. The workshop is aimed at children 13+, everyone taking part will work in pairs so parents can get in on the fun as well by working with their children to program the robots.

On March 14, 20 and 21 there will also be the chance to take part in our special balloon buggies and stomp rocket workshops at the reduced price of £1 a ticket. There will be four workshops each day and there is no need to book.

HISTORY OF JOHN INNES CENTRE

The Forum, March 15-24, free admission, 01603 255328, www.jic.ac.uk

The history of John Innes Centre as it celebrates its centenary will be featured in this special exhibition.

On show will be the story of the John Innes from its founding, how it has contributed to our daily lives in the 20th Century and how it is tackling the global challenges we face in the 21st Century.

From the compost recipes that made John Innes a household name, through the new fruit and vegetable varieties to fundamental research on plant breeding, microbial science and genetics, the last 100 years at the John Innes will be on display, and there will be a chance to vote for what you think is the most significant contribution.

The exhibition will be open to the public throughout the week leading up to Science in Norwich Day.

WHAT ON EARTH?

Online at: www.whatonearth.org.uk

British biodiversity is currently under threat, with thousands of our plants and animals facing habitat destruction and homelessness. Online project What on Earth is a call-to-action to identify as many plants and animals as possible in UK parks, gardens and hedgerows.

Upload a photo of anything you don't recognise from your garden or local park and in return the experts will try our best to identify it and send you a free packet of seeds designed to encourage more creatures to inhabit your local space.

Whether its plant identification, bird identification, animal identification or funghi identification - they'll do their best to find out what on earth it is!

BLOOMING SNAPDRAGONS

The Curve, The Forum, March 16-19, performances 10am, 1pm and 6.30pm (March 18 only), free admission, 01603 727950, www.theforumnorwich.co.uk

A play portraying the untold story of the struggle by women scientists to be allowed to work in labs, study and get paid for their research in the early 1900s.

Commissioned by the John Innes Centre to celebrate its centenary, the play explores the early female pioneers of the science of genetics, against the backdrop of an overwhelmingly male dominated academic environment and their working relationship with William Bateson, the first Director of the John Innes. It will be performed twice daily by Liz Rothschild and Syreeta Kumar, plus a later show on March 18.

GENETICS DAY

The Forum, March 18, 10am-2pm, free admission, 01603 727950, www.theforumnorwich.co.uk

Dr Ken - the Juggling Geneticist - helps to decode the world of genetics, one of the most fascinating and fast moving areas of modern science with his fun show, Genetics - Are you Taking the Pea, covering the history of genetics from Mendel's peas to modern genetic modification techniques.

Watch a demonstration of Gel electrophoresis, have a go at micropipetting and gel loading, look at GM bacteria displayed under UV, have fun with cardboard cloning, DNA bracelets, genetic taste test strips and a giant cell jigsaw. There will also be careers information available and the opportunity to find out more about the work of the Genome Analysis Centre, based at the John Innes Centre.

SCIENCE IN NORWICH DAY

The Forum, March 20, 10am-6pm, free admission, 01603 727950, www.theforumnorwich.co.uk

A chance to find out about what some of the 2700 scientists in Norwich do in a range of displays and activities.

Many of Norwich's top science centres, from the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research and UEA to the Inspire Discovery Centre and Bayer Crop Sciences, will be taking part.

The family science discovery day will include hands-on activities, exhibitions and displays for all ages. The Inspire Discovery Centre will be inviting visitors to help make a giant picture using paint-filled Alka-Seltzer rockets, and Science Made Simple, the award-winning science communication company, will be explaining the secrets of how sound and music are made (shows at 11am and 1.30pm).

NATURE'S ENGINEERS

Online at: www.britishscienceassociation.org

We have a lot to learn from the natural world. From the ingenuity of termite mounds, where construction techniques make for perfect, sustainable climate control, to the complexity of materials like spider silk, practically the world's strongest material, the natural world provides some of the most ingenious engineering feats and lessons imaginable. We can only benefit by paying more attention.

This online project wants to celebrate nature's engineers and discover some of the wonders of nature. To enter, and have a chance to win a family ticket to the Eden Project, describe in no more than 100 words which of the engineers you think can teach us the most - and why you think they are nature's best engineer. Closing date March 22.

THE BEAGLE PROJECT COMES TO NORWICH

John Innes Centre, March 22, 10am-6.30pm, more details 01603 255328, www.jic.ac.uk

Exhibition, displays and talks all linked to Charles Darwin's journey on The Beagle, the ship on which he circumnavigated the globe on the voyage that saw him collect the specimens that inspired the theory of Natural Selection as set out in On the Origin of Species, published 150 years ago.

The Beagle Project is aiming to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin by producing a modern seagoing replica of HMS Beagle and there will be a model of the Beagle, an interactive globe illustrating the voyage, exhibitions on Darwin and research students talking about their evolution related research.

VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE

John Innes Centre, March 22, 6.30pm, free admission, 01603 255328, www.jic.ac.uk

Dr Karen James, from the Natural History Museum, one of the projects instigators, will talk about the seagoing model of HMS Beagle, which is not intended to be a museum ship; she will be equipped with laboratories and equipment to allow contemporary, original research. This is not only in keeping with Charles Darwin's legacy but also creates an opportunity to engage students and teachers in the excitement of real scientific discovery.

As well as the fascinating story of the Beagle's voyage, there will also be a host of interactive exhibitions, and there will also be the chance to look at some of Darwin's letters.

SHOWCASE OF YOUNG SCIENCE

The Forum, March 23, 1pm/6.30pm, free admission, 01603 727950, www.theforumnorwich.co.uk

Five students and their supervisors will give talks on their scientific work in areas such as combating hospital superbugs, health promoting plant compounds, battling tuberculosis, wheat disease, colour and health, as told through the story of the purple tomato, and food poisoning.

The evening event at The Curve will show the breadth of subjects our young scientists are researching, and the audience will have the chance to discuss the science, and decide which project most deserves continued funding.

More about events in Science and Engineering Week.
More about events in Science and Engineering Week.

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