Cheltenham Science Festival 2014: Renewable Revolution!

Posted in: Public engagement

On Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th June 2014, cohort '13 took their "Renewable Revolution!" stall to the Family Fun Area at Cheltenham Science Festival. They were aiming to inform about potential future fuels and feedstocks not reliant of fossil fuels. This post about their experience was contributed by Tamsin Bell.

We arrived in Cheltenham Science Festival on Friday to have a sneak peak at some of the other exhibits: aspirin rockets by BBC Science, flight simulation by General Electric and a safe full of chocolate that was unlocked by providing 5 correct answers to questions by GCHQ.

Jemma explaining how the Crookes' Radiometer works.
Jemma explaining how the Crookes' Radiometer works.

By Saturday morning we were ready to go. There was only one problem: menacing, big black clouds looming and rapidly enveloping the sky. A torrential downpour was on its way.

We knew we needed to set up quickly to avoiding soaking all our exhibits; it was a race against the elements (not the chemical ones though!). Luckily set up was complete before the rain came, which we were pretty chuffed about but we forgot one thing - the gap between the two tents, which became a channel for water to flow down through onto our middle table. There was a scramble to fashion a device out of bin bags and duct tape to keep the water out of the tent. By the time we had managed this… it had typically stopped raining!

But nevertheless, spirits were still high and everyone was ready to go.  The families started to creep out of their rain shelters and suddenly the stall was packed and it remained like this for the rest of the day. There was so much to do from building a battery using a fruit electrolyte to creating electricity (a.k.a pedal power) by riding on our bike generator. We also ran a demonstration in which the public could calculate their morning carbon footprint in terms of balloons of carbon dioxide.

Passers-by were lured into the stand by the fascinating Crooke’s Radiometer as they speculated how it might work, with answers ranging from the plausible (solar panels, magnets) to the implausible (love, magic, wind, the bike). It was really interesting to hear what everyone thought the mushroom packaging material was made of… with only one correct guess all weekend. By the end of the day we were exhausted and ready for a nice dinner and a large glass of wine.

The Renewable Revolution! stall was always popular.
The Renewable Revolution! stall was always popular.

Sunday was lovely and warm with our tent effectively demonstrating the greenhouse effect, which was useful for the Big CO2 Blow Up demonstration. We were again battling with the elements today as the wind was determined to blow everything away, including the many balloons we needed for the Big CO2 Blow Up.

The bright sunshine meant that the Crooke’s Radiometer was spinning faster than ever and sparking lots of interesting discussions with the public. It’s hard work attempting to encourage scientific thinking and inspire children in science, but before we knew it it was time to pack up…but not before another one of Cheltenham’s legendary storms.  Just to make packing the van up that little bit more fun!

It was a really enjoyable and rewarding weekend and we hope the families that came to see the CSCT Renewable Revolution enjoyed it as much as we all did!

You can find fact sheets and the science behind the stall here. The photos from the Big CO2 Blow Up demonstrations can be found on our Facebook page - please feel free to tag yourselves!

Posted in: Public engagement


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