Blog posts

Urban allotment update

Blogging science to life

Thu 25 September 2014, Sara Venn, Incredible Edible Bristol

As the penultimate planter goes in this week, we catch up with Incredible Edible Bristol head honcho Sara Venn to get the low down on the urban allotment project.

 

When Incredible Edible Bristol was asked to collaborate with At-Bristol and Almondsbury Garden Centre to change the use of the beds in Bristol’s Millennium Square from ornamental and failing to edible and exciting, we jumped at the offer. The aim of Incredible Edible Bristol is to empower communities to get together and grow food in unloved and unusual spaces and the idea that we could help put something together that might help to inspire people to do this was perfect. We were also very excited to be working alongside the new Food! exhibition at At-Bristol, as we are working with many schools that we expect will visit the exhibition and the space over the next three years.

Millennium Square planters

The concept of all the beds is not just to make beautiful beds of edibles, but is also to show people that a small area can be really productive and also really beautiful. Rows of lettuces, alternating red and green, squashes climbing up tripods of bamboo canes, and rows of chard are all part of what has been planted so far, and all look stunning as well as being delicious to pick and eat.

Each bed also has fruit trees in it, to produce apples and pears which, as they grow, will offer shade to those sitting underneath them. The fruit trees have been carefully chosen to ensure that they will cope well with being in containers, and so are on medium sized and small rootstocks that will keep them at a manageable size.

Millennium Square planters

Incredible Edible Bristol’s role has been to help design and choose the plants for the beds and then to help plant the beds by using our core team alongside our volunteers. This has seen all age groups take part in planting the beds, from the age of 2 upwards and means that the beds have ownership by the people of the city. We have had people join us from Lockleaze, Bedminster, St Paul’s, Horfield and more and each and every person has had a great time and tells me they regularly pop by the beds to see how they are doing. For us this shows that growing food gives communities ownership of a space which is a very powerful thing.

Going into the future the beds will be managed as any food garden would. We will harvest and replant seasonally, spend much time fighting off pests and diseases, water, prune and weed. Going into next year, as we begin the new growing season, we will be making sure the beds all have a specific theme, so one may end up as a 3 sisters bed, one may all be perennials and one may be an old fashioned allotment space.

Millennium Square planters

What all the beds will have in common is that we are growing food in the community, with the community, for the community, so if you wander past and things look ready to harvest, please do so, and enjoy the fact that Bristol is the UK’s first Incredible Edible City.

If you’d like to get involved in the project, please do contact us – the more the merrier! 

 

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How to make a light saber

Blogging science to life

Thu 1 January 1970,

Ross and Beth have been getting all excited about Star Wars: Episode VII, so they've only gone and used science to make their own lightsabers! Here's how:

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Which is stronger... glass, sapphire, or a gorilla?

Blogging science to life

Wed 10 September 2014,

What's the difference between gorilla glass & sapphire? Is glass a solid or a liquid? How is glass able to support the weight of a 32-stone gorilla? Join Ross as he explores the science of glass.

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Do try this at home: How to burn metal

Blogging science to life

Fri 1 August 2014,

How is it possible to set fire to steel using nothing but a 9V battery? Ross of the Live Science Team shows you a simple but beautiful science experiment to burn metal, which you can try at home!

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How to make a hot air balloon

Blogging science to life

Fri 1 August 2014,

Just how big is a hot air balloon?  And what exactly is it made from?  This week, Ross visits Cameron Balloons, one of the oldest makers of hot air balloons - then puts his new-found knowledge into practice as he shows you how to make your own balloon at home!

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Record Breakers!

Blogging science to life

Thu 31 July 2014, Jen

It’s official (well, almost): At-Bristol now holds the record for the world’s longest-ever popcorn string! As we sit back and reflect on exactly what happened (and why on earth we thought it was a good idea) last week, here’s how we did it:

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Why did we do it?

All those months back when we began work on our fantastic new Food! exhibition, we thought that it would be brilliant to have a really big celebratory event on the opening weekend, and something that everyone could come and take part in and enjoy – hence, a food-related world record attempt!  

So, once we’d settled on a popcorn-related world record to tie in with our LED popcorn laser exhibit, the planning began: we sent a detailed application to Guinness World Records, after which we received the specifications for completing the record attempt and breaking the previous record of 277m. 

After some rudimentary maths we worked out that we’d need approximately 30,000 pieces of popcorn to reach our target of 300m – with an amount of that size, we knew that we needed some professional popcorn help!  Luckily, Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol came to the rescue and donated all 10kg of the popcorn to us!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

The big event

The record attempt itself had to take place over a 24 hour period, so we started at 2pm on Friday 25 July, and finished at 2pm the following day. Overall we threaded popcorn for a total of 14 hours (stopping for an overnight breather), hugely aided by the great British public and At-Bristol visitors, staff and volunteers. We provided 1m lengths of super-strength polyester thread, which people then threaded popcorn on to with a needle and thimble, taking around 10 minutes for a metre.

We then tied all the separate lengths together and laid them down on the ground against a 5m marker, tying on tags at intervals so we could keep track of how far we’d got.  Special commendations go to Jemima Carder, who threaded a whopping 22m of popcorn, and 12-year old Nick, who created the longest single chain, measuring 3m!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Two independent witnesses were on hand at all times to oversee the entire event, ensuring that we kept to the rules (all popcorn had to be touching, and there could be no gaps in the threads) and that all was above board. The world record attempt culminated in a big celebration event for Food! on Millennium Square: Almondsbury Garden Centre and Incredible Edible Bristol planted our next edible planter, BEATS supplied lots of delicious street food, and Bristol Samba got us all dancing!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

We beat the previous record of 277m with an hour to go, and finished at 320m – a new world record! The independent witnesses verified the final length (containing 32,000 pieces), so now all of the required evidence will be sent off to Guinness World Records, and we’ll await their official verdict in a few weeks’ time.

The popcorn string is currently on display in the foyer of At-Bristol, so anyone who was involved in the attempt (or who just wants to come and see something pretty amazing!) can come down and see it.

A special thanks goes to the following people:

  • Sophie at Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol – for donating 10kg of popcorn
  • Our independent witnesses – Hannah, James, Sophie & Ellie from Research Media, Ed from Lloyds Bank, Paul from UWE, Julia from Friends Life, Rebekah from DTZ, and Mary and Katie from Bristol Crown Court 
  • All At-Bristol staff and volunteers

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How to measure the speed of light - with CHOCOLATE!

Blogging science to life

Fri 25 July 2014,

Have a go at some kitchen quantum mechanics as Ross and Nerys show you how to measure the speed of light using a bar of chocolate and your microwave!  Who knew physics could be so tasty?!

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Why do bees dance?

Blogging science to life

Mon 21 July 2014, Nicole

Could you tell your friends where to find food just by dancing? Join Ross Exton of the Live Science Team as he takes a look inside a hive to discover the mysterious behaviour of honey bees.

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Tales from the Workshop…

Blogging science to life

Fri 18 July 2014, Zoe

Tales from the Workshop…

For the next instalment from our series ‘Tales from the Workshop’, and as we rapidly head towards the opening of our new Food! exhibition next week, we’re going to be taking a look at our Robot Chef - a trainee Robotic Chef who is trying to complete her studies  on what food humans like to eat, and she’s chosen At-Bristol to do it.

Currently called ‘RoboChef 3000’ (we’re asking the public for a new name at the moment, you can enter our competition here), she needs help from the At-Bristol visitors to finish her studies by getting people to try her recipes. And in a very clever, robotic way, can give a human a menu which might be their favourite dish, or perhaps something new, by using emotions – whether the person (or with this being such a highly intelligent robot, even a group people) are laughing or frowning.

After asking a series of questions and getting feedback through smiles or frowns, RoboChef 3000 will then print a shopping list and by scanning the barcode on the At-Bristol entry ticket wristband for our Explore More technology, a full recipe will be sent to the user for them to then cook up a storm at home. As RoboChef 3000 then says: “I will need photos of your cooked creation to pass my robot chef exam so please send them in. Enjoy the rest of your day!”

RoboChef 3000

"Honestly, I’m armless!” (arms to go on before launch...) 

The technology was originally designed for space, with the ability to recognise facial emotions of the crew on space missions, to help alleviate the potential fallouts or even depression, being confined in a small space for months at a time. The robot’s programmed software can learn to read the crew’s emotions and talk to them at regular intervals – genius!

Our RoboChef 3000 doesn’t use quite the same level as that for space missions, but visitors will still have a conversation with a robot, the outcome of which will result in a chosen recipe and hopefully a whole plethora of yummy meals  being made up and down the country.

RoboChef 3000

Robot’s eye view (Anchor Road and Bristol Cathedral)

The main inspiration for the look of our RoboChef 3000 comes from the small robot sat on her head in the pictures above, and was designed by our Design Engineer, Andy, and brought to robotic life by our Maintenance Engineer, Ben. Although in the pictures above, RoboChef 3000 doesn’t have any arms, she will by next week so she can move in all her lovely robotic glory!

Donations for recipes so far come from Casamia, Children’s Food Trust and Daylesford Cookery School so thank you to them for their delicious input!

Food! opens on Wednesday 23 July so come and test our RoboChef3000 for yourself then – to find out more visit www.at-bristol.org.uk/food, and keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of Tales from the Workshop.

 

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Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows: a storytelling adventure!

Blogging science to life

Thu 17 July 2014, John

Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows: a storytelling adventure!

Ever wondered about the programming you enjoy when you’re here in At-Bristol, or questioned where the ideas or stories come from? We caught up with Informal Learning Officer and ‘Keeper of Ursa and Leo’, John Polatch, to get the lowdown on a brand new story for under eights that we’re unveiling next week.


If you’ve been to any of At-Bristol’s storytelling sessions or Little Stars Planetarium shows, you’ll have met Ursa and Leo, our very own tiny explorers and all-time pals of the under eights.

In preparation for our new food-themed Toddler Takeover on 26 September, I sat down with Kerina and Heather from the Live Science Team to write a new story all about food.  Looking at the learning little ones are working towards at Early Years Foundation Stage, and later at Key Stage 1, we decided to plump for planting and growing seeds as a theme – which sits perfectly alongside activities in our brand new greenhouse.

Greenhouse being built!

The stories will be told from a specially created story-telling chair next to the greenhouse, and to really get into the gardening vibe, the area has fake grass underfoot, as well as wheelbarrows, scarecrows and plant pots around!

Story telling chair!

When creating our stories, we look for them to be based around the same active engagement as the rest of the At-Bristol experience. Our stories are about joining in with actions and noises, as well as the scientific behaviours of observation and exploration. Stories are designed to model activities that little ones can do themselves when they get home – so in ‘The Strange Bathtub’, we explored floating and sinking, testing real objects in water during the story to support the narrative. In ‘Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows’, children will get to plant their own seeds!

Kerina, Heather,  the rest of the Live Science Team and I will be bringing you ‘Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows’ every day from 23 July until 10 August, and then again for the ‘Fantastic Feast’ Toddler Takeover itself, when we’ll also have exciting activities in our play café and supermarket. Tasty!

 

 

 

 

 

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