Oxfordshire Science Festival
In June the annual Oxfordshire Science Festival offered a huge range of activities to engage the public in science. Covering everything from talks on space and migration, to street science and hands-on experiments, there was something on offer for young children and adults alike. There was even the opportunity to learn some biology through dance!
Keen to introduce the wonders of biomedical imaging to the public, we, a group of the ONBI ’14 and ‘15 cohort, spent months preparing a fun, interactive, and informative stall for the science fair on the opening weekend of the festival. On our course and in our research we use a variety of imaging techniques and equipment and our stall at the Oxford Town Hall really showcased this with demonstrations ranging from fluorescence up to MRI scanners.
A portable ultrasound machine proved a huge hit, especially when we used Doppler ultrasound to measure blood flow in our own arteries! The youngest of our punters kept themselves entertained writing secret messages using UV pens and lamps, demonstrating parts of the electromagnetic spectrum outside of the visible range and the idea of fluorescence. Smartphones were transformed into microscopes with the use of our very own DIY microscope kit, allowing photographic souvenirs of a mint leaf (simple yet effective!).
We also had a ‘fMRI simulator’, an interactive screen that showed how brain regions respond when we perform simple cognitive tasks, like finger tapping and naming objects. The demonstration even had MRI scanner sound effects. Kids were then able to show off their new-found knowledge by pointing out brain regions such as the visual or motor cortex as they disassembled a life-sized model of a brain.
It was great to see such a huge range of people enjoying the festival; tourists, families, fellow university researchers and teenagers. The questions we were faced with from the public were sometimes quite challenging, with many keen to delve into the complexities of our research. We also enjoyed trying to come up with better ways to explain how MRI works to the youngest of our audience. Overall, we had good feedback and many people seemed to enjoy our stall and the festival as a whole.
Special thanks must go to supervisors and researchers at FMRIB and BUBBL for trusting us with borrowed equipment for the fair and for their helpful suggestions and contributions to our stall.
Oxford-Nottingham Biomedical Imaging (ONBI) CDT