Blogging science to life
Tue 20 March 2012, Written by: Jenny
At-Bristol was the centre of animated discussion during the recent event, Funding a green future: the feed-in tariff debate, in collaboration with Sciencewise-ERC.
Government funded Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) are payments available to any individual or organisation who installs a renewable energy system for the energy that they create. The scheme has undergone controversial changes in the tariff rates for new solar photovoltaic (PV) panel installations. And after the successful installation of our own renewable 50 kilowatt peak PV solar panel array last month, At-Bristol was a fitting venue!
With such controversial subject matter and the opportunity to debate the event was busy - with around 30 visitors keen to start!
Things kicked-off with a brief introduction to the evening by Sustainability Officer Chris Dunford, introducing the topic from the context of At-Bristol, followed by a behind-the-scenes tour of the science centre's innovative low-energy building systems. At-Bristol has won many awards for its sustainability practise, most recently silver in the Sustainable Tourism entry of the South West Tourism Excellence Awards.
Next was an informative talk from Kerry Burns, General Manager for leading solar supplier Solarsense. Kerry explained that more than 73% of the UK's energy comes from burning the non-renewable fossil fuels coal and natural gas. Less than 8% of energy supplies for the UK currently come from renewable sources.
The UK is the windiest, waviest place in Europe. It was suggested that we should utilise this in the production of renewable energy, so reducing the release of harmful amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Jo Stevens from Sciencewise-ERC introduced the discussion topics, which were fuelled with drinks and nibbles of course! The first question asked how best to move the UK towards more low-carbon renewable energy production with a sustainable infrastructure. The range of options included small, individual scale initiatives to large government-led projects.
It was suggested there was a need to increase awareness and that individuals should hold responsibility over their own energy usage:
"People should have more energy autonomy. Households and people on a cultural level need to buy into renewables. Empower the people".
It was also widely agreed that funding small businesses for research and development is needed to build and strengthen the renewable energy sector.
The next question focussed on the FIT itself and asked how to create a fairer tariff system that does not disadvantage people who do not own a roof, land or have disposable income.
It was suggested those that do not show a significant energy reduction over a period of time should have to pay a levy. However flaws in this approach were pointed out; it does not take into account those who already have very low energy usage or little ability to change the energy efficiency of a building:
"Some people physically cannot reduce their energy, so not everyone should have to pay".
Consensus was reached among discussion groups that availability of grants and community schemes to install their own small scale installations could benefit those who could not participate due to financial limitations, and would open up accessibility to the FIT scheme.
Chris Dunford then wrapped up the evening with some further questions to speakers. The opportunity for public dialogue around science and technology issues is important, especially for the future of renewable energy. Personally, I found the event thought-provoking and engaging and look forward to further dialogue events.
Many thanks to all those who participated!
Blogging science to life
Thu 1 March 2012, Written by: Nicole
At-Bristol volunteer, Jennifer Garrett, asks At-Bristol's robotic peregrine falcon to fly down off the roof for a chat about seagulls, solar panels and sunsets.
Hi Brian, nice to meet you! Firstly could you tell the readers what your role is in At-Bristol?
Hello! Nice to meet you too. My job is to keep seagulls and pigeons off the At-Bristol roof, which helps look after the roof and prevents people in the square below from being pestered by these birds. There are lots of ways to deal with nuisance birds, but like a scarecrow, I'm a more humane way [squawk].
How long have you been working on the roof and do you enjoy it?
Just over two years! I really like my job here, all the people are lovely and there's always something interesting going on in At-Bristol [flap, flap].
How is your role important to the science centre?
It is important to protect the roofs, At-Bristol has two green roofs, which are like small gardens in the city centre, and it's important to keep seagulls away from these. To start with, I was protecting the roofs and the people down below but now the most important part of my job is protecting At-Bristol's brand new solar panel array [preen].
So what are solar panels?
Solar panels capture energy form the sun. There are two types. Solar thermal, which is where the sun heats water in the panels and this is then used in a building as hot water or for central heating. Because of the way At-Bristol gets its hot water and heats the building this wouldn't work for us [squawk]. So, we are using the other type of solar panel - photovoltaic, or PV. These convert sunlight into electricity which can then be used in the building, or fed into the National Grid.
With the arrival of the new solar panels on the roof, why is your job so important?
Solar panels are expensive and sensitive pieces of equipment, so you don't want seagulls damaging them, but most importantly for every bird dropping on a panel this means less sunlight getting through and so less electricity is generated [ruffles feathers].
How do they work?
Imagine sunlight being made up of tiny packages of energy, which are called photons. Energy makes things excited [flap]. When the chemical in a PV panel is excited by a photon in sunlight an electron shoots out of the chemical. This creates a stream of electrons which flow out of the PV panel and down a wire. This flow of electrons through a wire is electricity!
So does this chemical get used up?
No, that's the great thing about photovoltaic energy [preen]. Because of the way electricity works, in a big loop, whenever an electron shoots out of the chemical there is one ready to take its place. So as long as the sun is shining photons will be hitting the panel and there will be an endless flow of electrons.
Why is At-Bristol installing these panels?
Getting energy from sunlight is a good thing to do because at the moment most of the energy humans use comes from burning fossil fuels, which one day will run out, and this releases carbon dioxide which is bad for the environment [ruffles feathers]. Whereas sunlight is a renewable source of energy, which means it will not run out and is a way of making electricity that does not release carbon dioxide. By installing PV panels At-Bristol is using renewable energy and reducing its carbon footprint [squawk].
To wrap up, here are 5 quick-fire questions:
Favourite hobby: Tweeting about my day on my twitter @brianrobofalcon
Favourite TV show: BBC's Earthflight, I enjoy reality television.
Pet hate: Seagulls!
What do you do on your days off: Fly over to Avon Gorge to see my friends.
Best part of your job: Seeing the sun rise over Bristol every morning, then set at the end of the day.
To keep up with the progress of the solar panels through the eyes of Brian follow him on Twitter: @brianrobofalcon - watch live footage of the installation here
Blogging science to life
Thu 23 February 2012, Written by: Nicole
On 8 March At-Bristol and Sciencewise-ERC are holding a free evening to discuss the current hot topics in sustainability, feed-in tariffs, to look at changes to renewable energy financing and the choices available. As well as voicing your opinions, you will also get the chance to feed into Government policy and to get energetic about green energy!
Is the current feed-in tariff the best way to move the UK towards a green energy future? Is this the quickest way to a lasting and resilient energy supply? All will be explored!
There will also be a special behind-the-scenes sustainability tour of At-Bristol. Meaning you can marvel at the amazing phase change tank and other features which make our building so unique! The building has helped us reduce our energy reduction by 12% in 12 months, and since then we have been awarded Gold Green Tourism Award, and Silver for our sustainability at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards. Plus we’re now the proud owners of a large network of 50kWp Photovoltaic panels on our roof!
If you can’t make the date, never fear, you can still join the debate as we will be live tweeting from the event using the #sciwise, so be sure to tune in and let us know what you think!
Book your place!
This is a FREE event - but places are limited.
Simply phone 0845 345 1235 (Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm excluding bank holidays) to book your place!
Blogging science to life
Mon 13 February 2012, Written by: Nicole
If you are in central Bristol tomorrow, and want to get a message to someone you love you can with BT Love Sites on the Big Screen in Millennium Square.
If you are hopelessly in love, fancy the pants off someone or longing to pop the question now is your chance to share your messages of love with the nation.
This Valentine’s Day messages of love will appear on the London 2012 Live Site screens across the UK. If the message is really moving or inspiring, it may even end up around the “infoband” at the top of the BT Tower for millions of Londoners across the capital to see.
Suzi Williams, Director Group Marketing and Brand at BT said “We’re delighted to be playing Cupid for Valentine’s Day, enabling people to send messages to their loved ones or maybe even propose. Remember girls, this is your chance; if you really love him, come on and let it show – it’s a leap year after all.”
Romantics are invited to send their loving lines to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet them with the hash tag #loveisallaround or text them to 83310 starting with LOVE and ending with your 120 character Valentine message. Messages are open for entries from Thursday, February 9, so get your messages in early – if you want to keep it secret until the day, best email us. Keep the message short – maximum 120 characters – but feel free to include your story – as it’ll definitely help us choose.
All appropriate messages will get onto the Live Sites, and BT will pick the best to go up on the BT Tower. We will let the lucky message senders know in advance. For full terms and conditions see bt.com/livesites.
And remember if you are looking for a date with a difference - At-Bristol is the perfect place! Rather than having to find an overcrowded restaurant which can squeeze you in next to millions of tables for two, you can come for a day round At-Bristol and experience some real chemistry.
With plenty to do and even more to talk about, you can try to cover yourselves with a giant bubble and learn the science behind what gets your heart pumping. Then you can go stargazing without the need to wrap up in the Planetarium and be swept off your feet in our walk through tornado (not literally of course!).
Blogging science to life
Tue 7 February 2012, Written by: Nicole
At-Bristol opened its doors and welcomed around 4000 visitors from the Barton Hill, Lawrence Hill, Knowle West, Hartcliffe and Southmead areas of Bristol, for a free weekend of fun!
The weekend, which had been funded by Big Lottery Fund, was one of two which are being held and run by At-Bristol. Their aim is to give families a chance to explore the world of healthy living and a healthy lifestyle by learning, exploring and playing together. Families were given the chance to explore At-Bristol to their hearts content, playing with the hundreds of interactive exhibits and exploring the wonderful world of science. They could take a trip to the universe with the Winter night sky and Little Stars (and due to it’s popularity the Planetarium was sold out by 12pm both days!), learn about their amazing brains with The Boggling Brain show and get taken on an imaginative adventure with Storytelling.
This weekend was also about bringing communities together and so it was brilliant to be able to invite Community members from Wellspring Healthy Living Centre, Knowle West Health Association, the NHS and Hengrove Park Leisure Centre in to help us deliver some amazing healthy activities.
For those that wanted to flex their muscles and get active we had Zumba and Street Dancing taster sessions and Wii fit dancing sessions. After working up an appetite, families could explore the world of healthy food by taste-testing pancakes with a selection of healthy fillings and making their own smoothies and bread. Everyone got to take these home with them… although they looked so yummy I’m not sure many actually reached home!
And, after all that activity, there was guided relaxation in the Planetarium – promoting the importance of a healthy mind and giving everyone the chance to relax under the stars- lovely!
There was also the chance to talk to community representatives from a range of different projects including Smoke Free Bristol, Off the Record, 4YP, Barnardos Breastfeeding peer support, Live to Live health and fitness, Knowle West Health Park, NHS Inner City team, Alcohol awareness and more!
The weekend was hugely successful and we were delighted to welcome hoards of visitors! Jo Bryant, Community Engagement Manager for At-Bristol said “It’s fantastic to be able to work Bristol’s brilliant community groups and their members. After all bringing science into the community in a fun, hands-on way is what At-Bristol is all about!”
A huge thanks to everyone who help with the day – including our fantastic volunteers and community members! We can’t wait until the next one!
Blogging science to life
Tue 24 January 2012, Written by: Krysten
For little over a year now I have been volunteering with At-Bristol. I have been fortunate enough to be involved with many different activities and events, including Toddler Takeover days, school workshops and even outreach at the Bristol Children’s Hospital!
While volunteering, I saw glimpses of what happens “behind the scenes” in At-Bristol. Significant preparation is required to put together the programming that visitors get to enjoy and experience. After seeing this I wanted to become more involved with the development aspects of At-Bristol, so I applied to become the Learning intern.
For three months from July to September, I came in two days each week to work with the At-Bristol Learning team. As the Learning intern I was able to become involved with many different projects including using my skills as an educator to update and develop new trails around the venue for schools to follow during their visits to At-Bristol. The trails direct students to specific exhibits and ask students questions relating to the science involved in the exhibits. Seeing the Trails on the At-Bristol website and in use on the floor was exciting and personally very satisfying! Similarly, I created activities for teachers to use with their classes in conjunction with two of the workshops that make up part of At-Bristol’s schools programme .
I was lucky enough to be able to work inter-departmentally with the Exhibitions department – I conducted some visitor research and spent many days speaking one-on-one with visitors to ask what they thought about the new All about us experience. The data I collected was later used for a report to measure the success of the All About Us exhibition. It was great to be able to interact with visitors and learn lots about evaluation techniques at the same time. Other activities I got involved with were updating school workshop materials, planning activities for a Toddler Takeover day, and I surveyed visitor feedback on the Seasonal Night Sky planetarium show. From what I saw visitors love the planetarium! As well as taking responsibility for the work that I was involved with and contributed towards I felt appreciated by the department.
Working with the Learning team was great! Everyone is so nice and extremely friendly. At-Bristol made me feel that I was part of the team and everyone was willing to help answer all of my questions! The internship itself was very flexible and able to accommodate my other commitments. I was able to become involved with projects that interested me and expand/improve upon my skills set. I learned more about science communication and programming development than I could have imagined. I would highly recommend participation in an internship - the experience itself and the skills that you take away are invaluable. I will certainly use what I have learned in the future!
Blogging science to life
Fri 13 January 2012, Written by: Harry
Today’s blog is a review of At-Bristol written by Harry, aged 6, who recently visited us with his family.
On Monday the 2nd of Jan 2012 me Hugo Paul Ruth and Claudia had a trip to the BRISTOL SCIENCE MUSEUM. We started to get dressed ate breakfast and got into the car. It was 60 minutes till we got to the car park.
IT WAS UNDERGROUND!
We went up some stairs that led outside. It was raining. First we went to the café for some lunch. I had a bacon sandwich. We went to the door that led inside. There was a long queue that we had to wait in for our tickets. When we got in there we saw lots of experiments and activities.
I had a go on some rockets that had parachutes on them. You put the rockets on a wire that goes up, hit’s the ceiling and falls down. I had a go on some other things including two big whispering dishes. Next we had a look at some things about the body and how you grow as a baby.
Upstairs there was more to look at. There was a Wallace and Gromit scene when you could change the features and effects by pressing a button and flicking switches. There was a giant bubble making area and funny mirrors. Me, Paul and Hugo went into the planetarium. It is a cinema on the ceiling about stars and planets. When we came out we went to a fake tv station where there were cameras, screens and a news desk which was great fun adding sound effects and backgrounds.
I think that everyone would like it as much as I did. I hope I go again one day and do some of the things I didn’t do this time.
Thanks Harry – we can’t wait to welcome you back!
Blogging science to life
Wed 11 January 2012, Written by: Erin
At-Bristol hosted the first Business in the Community ‘Behind the Scenes’ event of 2012 yesterday. These events are designed to inspire people who experience barriers to employment to think about employment opportunities that might be available in different work places. After all what makes somewhere like At-Bristol work isn’t just science!
The day gave participants an introduction to what At-Bristol is, what we do and what they could be doing if they worked here. To kick things off was a fun and informative quiz (including very significant facts such as: the Silver Ball is NOT a spaceship but actually our Planetarium!); a tour of the exhibitions led by our Live Science Team which was an opportunity to have a play, very important as no one had ever been to At-Bristol as a visitor before! Then HR gave an overview of At-Bristol’s recruitment and selection process.
After a fantastic buffet lunch, provided for free by Digby Trout Restaurants, came the ‘Speed Interviewing’ session: think speed dating for job hunters!
Nine members of staff from nearly every department spent 6 minutes being interviewed by a small group of participants about their jobs before moving on to speak to the next group, and the next… and the next! Staff members from Marketing, Venue Hire, Security, IT, Estates, Visitor Services, and Digby Trout volunteered to be a part of this session designed to give the participants a real sense of what employers are looking for, new ideas to help with their job hunt and whether At-Bristol might be somewhere they’d like to work. Although, not everyone spent the whole 6 minutes talking about work…
After another well needed coffee break, and a quick Q&A the day was over. All the participants seemed to have a brilliant day, and we might even have recruited one or two new volunteers! There was even time for a group snapshot as a memento of the day!
Blogging science to life
Wed 21 December 2011, Written by: Nicole
Santa’s Invention workshop has been open almost a week now and we’ve had a whole host of elves visiting making the most fabulous L.E.D Christmas decorations, finger puppets and hoover balloons!
The Christmas puddings have barely stopped flaming in the studio with our amazing Party tricks demonstrations and it doesn’t matter if we’re not going to have a white Christmas this year as the homemade snow storms have been going down a… storm!
If you are too busy making last minute Christmas preparations don’t worry you will have a chance to get crafty right into the New Year as Winter Wonder-land activities until 2 January.
So after a year of Wallace and Gromit Invention kit weekends, Toddler Takeovers, Planetarium star shows, the All About Us launch, Inspiring Interactions, the Royal Wedding, Brownie/Cub/Beaver days, Championsheeps, Abu Dhabi and a whole host of other spectacularly sciencey activities all that is left to say is Happy Christmas!
Blogging science to life
Fri 16 December 2011, Written by: Bonnie
Bonnie Buckley is currently doing an MsC in Science Communication in UWE and volunteers in At-Bristol in her spare time. Recently she met up with Goéry Delacôte, CEO of At-Bristol to discuss the practicalities of running a science centre and achieving your dreams.
One of the very first questions often asked of us when younger is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and discovering the answer to this question is quite exciting. However, once you know the answer, you are then faced with the next question, “how do I achieve my career goal?”
My career aspirations are to one day lead a science centre. To complement my educational pursuit of a Science Communication MSc, I began volunteering at At-Bristol in October. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Goéry Delacôte, At-Bristol’s Chief Executive Officer, to discuss his view on some of the abilities and talent needed to successfully lead a science centre.
Following our discussion, I have gained knowledge toward further developments to focus on as I continue to learn and expand my experience in the field. Some of the highlights were:
- It is important to always have a strategy and be passionate and intelligent.
- Know the needs of your audiences in relation to your mission and travel to those that are unable to come to you.
- When building a network, create the need for a network, making it advantageous for all involved.
- Be an enabler for the people you work with, highlighting the strengths of individuals to produce a successful product as a team.
The remainder of my day was spent helping visitors create Christmas toys and ornaments in Santa's Invention workshop in Live Lab. While cutting felt and tying ribbon, I felt a sense of excitement over the prospect of the many future experiences, projects, visitor interactions, and programmes that I will continue to learn from on my adventure to one day leading a science centre.
My recent discussion with Goéry Delacôte will remain as a prominent moment of learning. His insight, wisdom, and advice have added to my motivation and passion for my chosen career goal. The question that now resonates in my mind, a question I was asked during our conversation, is “are you determined?”
Find more information about the At-Bristol volunteering scheme here