The University of Hull is where science comes alive

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Published: Monday 3rd April 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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Yesterday saw the return of the University of Hull’s Science Festival. We popped down to get inspired!

Created with families in mind, the festival has tons to keep children entertained. At the same time, it offers plenty of opportunity for adults to learn something new as well.

Spread across multiple venues on the Cottingham Road campus, including the Wilberforce Building, the Business School and the Brynmor Jones Library, kids could disrupt the microstructure of chocolate whilst parents found out about pulsars.

We spoke to Phil Bell-Young, Science Outreach Officer in the Faculty of Science and Engineering, about how he thinks it all went.

“I was blown away again by the number of people that came along to engage with some science,” says Phil.

“I spent most of my time with the Hull Street Scientists doing science busking and it was never not busy! I wouldn’t be surprised if we collectively engaged with 2,000 people.”

And that was in just one of the rooms in a single building, which goes to show how hungry for science the people of Hull really are.

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One area was hosted by the Psychology department, which focused on tricking the mind into perceiving things differently.

An example is putting one hand out of sight whilst a fake version is placed in front of you (above). Both are stroked on the same finger to begin with, which is then stopped on the real hand and continued on the dummy.

The result is the brain believing that you can still feel your finger being touched, even though it’s the plastic version that you’re looking at.

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There were also various activities for children to take part in, from putting together a model brain, to creating their own optical illusions (above).

Meanwhile, kids young and old loved exploring demonstrations by the Hull University Formula Student team, and the Environmental Science department’s River in a Box was a fun way of learning about erosion (both below).

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We asked Phil what his top three highlights were from the day:

“This is a hard question, but one of my favourite areas was the Discovery Zone because there was so much happening. Extracting DNA from strawberries, making flexible chocolate and building balloon powered cars, just to name a few.”

“There was literately something that everyone could enjoy regardless of age or background. It was amazing to see so many people having such a good time.”

And the fun didn’t stop there, as the University of Hull also hosted incredible science shows on high tech robots and everyday life. These were delivered by brilliant minds from the Science Museum and Dr Marty Jopson, BBC One Show resident scientist.

There was also a magnificent presentation by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, talking about her incredible contributions to astrophysics.

“Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to see that one for myself,” says Phil. “But I heard so much about it from the audiences who left the talk feeling inspired and starstruck.”

“My favourite highlight of the Hull Science Festival, overall, was seeing the effect that it had on people, whether that was aspirational or simply just the fun experience, I think everyone walked away with something.”

If you missed the Hull Science Festival, don’t worry, as Phil will soon be bringing science to the city centre:

“My next big public engagement event will be Pint of Science, running from Monday 15 until Wednesday 17 May.”

This is an exciting event that takes place across 20+ UK cities and also abroad. In Hull, each night sees six speakers talking about their work over a pint inside pubs and bars throughout the iconic Fruit Market.

“This year we have talks on whether we are alone in the universe,” Phil tells us. “Plus we separate facts from fiction surrounding penguins, and discuss whether your own pint can unlock the secrets of squeezing out more oil.”

The festival takes visitors on a journey across Earth, into our own galaxy and even through the human body. You can find out more and grab your tickets by visiting the Pint of Science website.

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Published: Monday 3rd April 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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