Social Responsibility


Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:05:00 BST

On 23 and 24 April the University of Manchester took over intu Trafford Centre for the first ever #scienceX in honour of Manchester’s European City of Science title for 2016.

To set off the festivities the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences worked with a team from the Faculty of Life Sciences to bring science and engineering to a less traditional audience who they ordinarily would not normally engage with. The aim was to show both boys and girls and people of all ages that everyone has the potential to be a scientist or an engineer.

Across the two days, shoppers were wowed with a wide variety of activities; many of which can be seen on our Storify.

The School of Physics showed off some science tricks, discussed the use of robots to discover more about the universe and asked the question: “Can physics let you see the world in a new light?” They showed off infrared cameras and virtual reality experiences. They also teamed up with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) who displayed scale models of their radio telescope array in South Africa and Australia.

Our mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering students let people experience their flight simulator and formula student racing car to give customers a taste of what engineers do. These were really popular attractions with a constant queue of excited children and adults waiting to attempt the landing of an airbus A320 or sit in the car, wear the helmet and pretend to be taking part in an important race.

Manchester Energy demonstrated how energy is produced and guided us on the journey of how it reaches our plug sockets. Their energy pods drew many interested young minds, all keen to play the games on offer and to try out the generator bike which could be used to power a fan.

Our earth scientists asked the questions: “What does a piece of the moon look like up close? Or a piece of Mars? Is it really red?” Members of the public were able to hold pieces of the moon, collected by the Apollo astronauts, as well as meteorites from Mars and asteroids. They were also able to examine meteorites through microscopes to explore what they are made of. The team demonstrated how 4.5 billion year old meteorites hold the key to understanding the history of our Solar System and how it has evolved.

Shoppers partied with the School of Computer Science and their robots, and learnt how to code their behaviour and write programs to direct their activities. The robots wich were voice activated impressed everyone with their dance moves and dexterity. Visitors could also fully immerse themselves in another world with the virtual reality headsets by searching for words relating to computers and computer science.

The School of Materials offered Electroless Copper Plating, an ‘engraving’ technique used to get a design on steel using just a marker pen! They demonstrated the science behind corrosion, and how material scientists try to protect against it. They also showed off a mind-controlled game where people moved rocks and trees without touching a single key on the computer key board.

Our mathematicians brought statistics to life by showing people how to make a ribbon curly. They showed shoppers how different instruments create different types of curl, and how maths taught them this.

Scientists from our Manchester Institute of Biotechnology presented how they study and engineer biological parts – for example sugars, enzymes and microorganisms - to help solve the problems of tomorrow and in the Sealife Centre they demonstrated some experiments to understand what carbon dioxide does to our oceans.

The weekend’s Science Extravaganza was a resounding success with both visitors to the stands and those who worked on them, commenting on how much they had enjoyed the experience. Visitors also said how pleased they were to be able to access these pieces of science and engineering which would ordinarily not be available to them and asked when we would be back again!

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