Royce goes intergalactic at Bluedot 2019

A rainy weekend in Cheshire wasn’t enough to stop the Henry Royce Institute from taking on their biggest outreach event to date!

On Friday 19th July, 25 volunteers from across the Royce partners arrived at a wet and muddy Jodrell Bank, to open up the Royce Laboratory once more and engage children in the world of materials science and engineering. This year saw a new addition to the Royce clean room with a functional Glove Box from the National Graphene Institute. Festival-goers were tasked with building the molecular structure of Graphene with adult-sized gloves; proving a near-impossible challenge.

Bluedot 2019 marked 50 years since the moon landing and against the backdrop of the Lovell Telescope the festival was set to be an intergalactic showcase of music, science, and entertainment. The Royce went full interstellar with a ‘How to make a Space Suit’ activity. Volunteers demonstrated how the properties of UV resistant materials protect against dangerous levels of radiation in space using different samples as a barrier between a UV torch and UV sensitive beads. Arcadio Martinez-Madrid, a summer intern at the Institute said;

By using a gold-sputtered petri dish we are able to explain how specific materials are used in a visor to protect against radiation. It was brilliant to see the look on the kid’s faces when the beads didn’t change colour

Along with aerospace demonstrations, the Royce Lab explored biomimetic materials with ‘Nature’s Inspirations’. Using the properties of lotus leaves, gecko’s feet, burdock burrs, and hydrophobic soil, stand visitors matched natural materials to their man-made counterparts in hydrophobic shorts, gecko pads, velcro, and magic sand. Lejla Softic commenting on the activity said:

Exploring material properties is one of the simplest ways to explain what we do in materials science. It was amazing to see children find the link between natural and man-made materials and to see how we draw inspiration from nature. Mixing children, water and sand was definitely a recipe for the messiest table!

Over the weekend the Royce spoke with over 2000 visitors and there were some familiar faces from 2018 back again to take on the Royce challenges;

This year’s event was co-organise by Chris Hamlett, National Outreach Officer for Materials Science and focused on exploring the broad nature of materials science and engineering.  Chris commented that:

Here at Bluedot we’re engaging with both children and parents to enthuse them into materials science. It’s not a common subject that children will come across at school so we’re here to show that it covers all kinds of subjects from physics to chemistry to design and most importantly, that it’s fun! It’s so crucial to get young people involved with science at a young age so that they can see it as a possible career choice in the future.

We are currently updating the Outreach and Public Engagement pages on our website. Check back in September 2019 for our upcoming outreach events and KS3 learning resources for materials science activities.