Monday, 2 March 2015

The Cosmos, Research on Tour, Castlegate and Robots

As part of the symposium, we had a number of showcases of successful public engagement.

First up,was Sounds of the Cosmos, from the 2014 Festival of the Mind, a joint production between the Departments of Music and Physics, and a local design agency, Human.
It combined the music from the Holst's The Planets, astronomy talks, and images of the cosmos. There's a great short video of it, produced by CiCS staff of course, on YouTube

and all of the talks are available on iTunesU.

The music, although called The Planets, is more about the astrological nature of the planets, so in between each of the movements was a science talk about research being carried out in Sheffield. Not about the individual planets, but about broad areas, including the birth of stars, the death of stars, galaxies, and the future.
There were workshops throughout the day with local schoolchildren about the research going on in Maths and Physics, and a special concert for them in the afternoon, with the general public concert in the evening. A great opportunity for outreach, and to get schoolchildren interested in science.
We helped out by fitting 8 huge screens in the Octagon for the images to be displayed during the concert. They were stunning, and produced by Human. There was 2 and a half hours of footage, because the screens were paired up with different images on each. Lots of NASA images were used, blended with their own visuals.
Overall a huge success with great reviews, good public engagement, and real partnership working across the whole University. And new opportunities have opened, with DocFest interested in it, as well as touring opportunities.

Second showcase was from Amy Beard from Point Blank Theatre talking about your Research on Tour, research from Professor Dawn Hadley looking at Sheffield's Manor Lodge. She was looking at the 19th century community living there, and worked with Point Blank Theatre to design a play to demonstrate her work on this mining community. Academics and PBT worked together to write a play called "All Sorts of Wickedness" which was performed to a packed house in the Spiegel tent in the 2012 FoTM. Some professional actors, but also a community cast. This led to another project called Performing the Past which was research into using performance to bring historical research to the wider community. In 2014 FoTM they put on another play about the late 19th century Sheffield showman Harvey Teasdale. All of these projects have brought Sheffield history to life and demonstrated the nature and vibrancy of working class culture in 19th century Sheffield. They've just got an Arts Council Grant to take the latest production on tour.
We also got a short performance, with both an actor and excerpts from a video from the live show.

Next showcase was from the Department of Architecture. They've been working with the city for 20 years on live projects, with students engaged at all levels. They are setting up an exciting new project called Liveworks, based in the city centre, very close to the city council offices. It's a collaboration between students, staff, and graduates from the School of Architecture, and one of the projects they've been working on is how to revitalise Castlegate, a very run down area of the City Centre. They've had a total of 65 students in two studios working on it. They've been looking at how to use the buildings round there, especially the old Town Hall, and using the rivers which run through the area to create more open spaces. Another project is looking at City Centre living, especially more mixed community groups, not just students, but older people. I think I might be one of them :-)

Final case study was robots. yay! Sheffield Robotics are a big research group with collaborations across all 5 faculties, and with Sheffield Hallam University and many external companies. They have about 40 academics and over 100 researchers. Disappointingly they didn't bring any robots with them. Lots of public engagement going on with them, especially around the general perception of what a robot is. Most of them don't look like the Terminator. They take cute little robots into schools to teach kids about science. Coming out soon, a robot kids can build, MIRO. Will be available to individuals and schools. I want one...

Great set of case studies, I've only captured the flavour of the work here.

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