At-Bristol Science Centre

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5 things you don’t want to miss at Bristol Mini Maker Faire!

Blogging science to life

Wed 19 August 2015, Jennifer Garrett

This Saturday we’re hosting Bristol Mini Maker Faire, a free family-friendly celebration of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, set to be the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth!

Expect hacked hamsters and robotic portrait artists...

Maker Faire Bristol

From tech enthusiasts to crafters and scientists to garage tinkerers, they’ll all be showing off their latest projects. With so much going on, we’ve put together our top five things not to miss!

  • Bristol Hackspace: Shonkbot workshops. Want to start ‘hacking’ but don’t know how? Then don’t miss these workshops on how to make cheap, easy to build robots - perfect for beginners. Read more about ‘Shonkbots’ in this feature on Hackaday!
  • Ellie Palmer Puppetmaker: Discover how to make your own muppet-style puppet with local puppeteer Ellie. Ellie will be showing examples of her work and providing an insight into the puppet-making process so that you could have a go at making your own!
  • Rusty Squid: Our harbourside neighbours from across the water will be showcasing their latest project Heartfelt – as seen at Bristol Proms. Meet the team behind these hand-held robotics hearts as they tell the story of their development and reveal the mechanisms inside.
  • Our very own Beth Cotterell: Meet Martin, Bristol’s first tweeting hamster! Chat to At-Bristol’s own Live Science Team member Beth Cotterell, as she describes how and why she hacked her hamster. Follow Martin the hamster on Twitter.
  • Giant sketchy: Take your own portrait home, by local robot ‘Giant Sketchy’ – a giant phone-powered robot that can draw! As seen at UK Maker Faire.

So don’t miss all this and so much more on Saturday 22 August from 10am to 5pm – still time to book your FREE ticket here.

Bristol Mini Maker Faire

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How do robots copy animals?

Blogging science to life

Fri 14 August 2015,

Falcons, walruses, lobsters; they all have one thing in common. They are helping engineers to design and build the next generation of exciting robots!

Beth of the Live Science Team visits the Bristol Robotics Laboratory to find out more about the cutting edge science of biomimicry.

Expect lots of awesome robots and one amazing peregrine falcon!

Robots V animals

This video was supported by UWEUniversity of Bristol, and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

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How to make a water filter | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Mon 20 July 2015,

Water is essential to life on Earth. But how does the water get from the rivers and streams to your tap at home? Ross & Heather of the Live Science Team show you how to make a water filter and visit Bristol Water treatment works to investigate the science and engineering behind a glass of water.

If you're around At-Bristol and Millennium Square, you can fill your water bottle from the new, free, public water fountain on Millennium Square, thanks to the folks at Bristol Water. 

How to make a water filter



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Steak, cake and brown sludge!

Blogging science to life

Fri 10 July 2015, David Judge

David from Live Science Team explores why browned food tastes so good!

Almost every day I walk past the back of a bakery and I’m tempted by the delicious aromas of freshly baked goods. Sometimes I give in. I love baked foods and I love baking. But it has always seemed like a bit of a dark art to me. You put a soggy mess into the oven and out comes something delicious. As it turns out, chemistry has an awful lot to do with it. One reaction in particular, which was discovered over one hundred years ago, is responsible for the whole variety of aromas which lure me through the bakery door.

Cake chemistry
Find out more about the chemistry of baking on our YouTube channel

The story of this chemical reaction takes us on a journey through the 20th Century, back to France, 1912, when chemist Louis-Camille Maillard was trying to imitate in the lab how the body makes the proteins it needs to live and grow. Maillard noticed that instead of reacting as he expected, the sugars and amino acids which he had mixed together slowly turned into a brown sludge.

Brown sludge, politely called melanoidin, unsurprisingly failed to capture many scientists’ interest, and the Maillard reaction, as it is called, remained unstudied for several decades.

That's Maillard... not Mallards.

However the Second World War revived interest in the reaction when it was noticed that processed foods eaten by the troops, such as powdered eggs and tinned food, would slowly turn brown and taste unpalatable. Once they had worked out that it was the same reaction which had made brown sludge in the lab, scientists focussed on how to stop the Maillard reaction from happening at all. It seems strange that the same reaction which makes the crust on a nice bread roll so delicious is the same reaction which can make some foods taste bad.

It wasn’t until 1953, when an African-American scientist, John Hodge, put together all of the pieces of the puzzle, that we really understood exactly what was going on. During the process, which works best between 140 and 165˚C, amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, react with sugars. Both of these types of chemicals are found in almost all types of food, in an abundance of variety. When this reaction occurs, hundreds or even thousands of products can be formed, each depending on the amino acid which they came from. These contribute to the aromas and flavours of foods such as meat, popcorn, caramel, cake, onions, chocolate, bread...

Roast dinner
We can thank the Maillard reaction for roast dinners and pints too!

...Basically, if it is brown, the Maillard reaction probably had something to do with it!

Nowadays scientists aren’t just interested in stopping the Maillard reaction when it makes food taste bad, but they also try to control it to create certain flavours and aromas. In fact every time we cook we are using this reaction, even if you’ve only ever just made toast.

I’m not sure if knowing about the Maillard reaction will help me to resist what’s on offer at the bakery, but maybe next time I’ll at least pause for thought before wolfing down a tasty treat.

Find out more!

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Brain Lab: Thinking Tissue - key findings

Blogging science to life

Fri 3 July 2015, Jennifer Garrett

As a leading UK science centre, we are always looking to deliver novel and exciting programmes. Building partnerships is a great way for us to develop and deliver activities that are new for us as well as our audiences.

During March 2015, some of our visitors joined us for our innovative Brain Lab sessions. The project, supported by the Wellcome Trust, explored the impact of using real human tissue on visitors’ learning experiences. We did this through the development and delivery of an immersive workshop to recreate ‘behind the scenes’ science happening in hospital labs to diagnose brain tumours.

Credit: Wellcome Trust
Credit: Wellcome Trust

Many visitors kindly offered to speak with our evaluators about their experiences. It is thanks to their contributions that we are gathering our findings from the project, and we want to share a summary of some key findings so far:

We're currently working on the full report, so if this summary whets your appetite for more, or you have any feedback, please get in touch with the project team:

Brain Lab: Thinking Tissue is a partnership project with Brain Tumour Bank South West based at Southmead Hospital, the Centre for Ethics in Medicine at the University of Bristol, and At-Bristol Science Centre.

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How to make instant ice-cream | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 26 June 2015, Jennifer Garrett

Are you in urgent need of some ice-cream on a hot, sunny day? Well science is here to save your summer! Beth and Sarah make liquid nitrogen ice-cream and show you how to make your own instant ice-cream in just a few minutes using milk, cream, ice, and... salt!?

Are you in urgent need of some ice-cream on a hot, sunny day? Well science is here to save your summer! Beth and Sarah make liquid nitrogen ice-cream and show you how to make your own instant ice-cream in just a few minutes using milk, cream, ice, and... salt!?

Come along to At-Bristol to try this experiment in our Summer Kitchen activity!

How to make ice-cream YouTube video

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How to make cheese | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 27 February 2015,

Brie, stilton, cheddar... everyone has got a favourite cheese. And it's easy to make your own at home. Nerys and Heather investigate the science and show you how to make cheese in less than two minutes!

To find out more about making your own cheese, come and visit the Summer Kitchen in our Food! exhibition 

Cheese making

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Our YouTube channel reaches one million views!

Blogging science to life

Fri 12 June 2015, Jennifer Garrett

This month we reached an incredible ONE MILLION views on our YouTube channel - we're most subscribed science centre channel in the world!

We've covered everything from calculating pi using sausages, found out which lands first... the chicken or the egg and even interviewed an astronaut! 

To celebrate, we decided to revisit our favourite videos in a rundown of our most-viewed top ten!

Filming behind the scenes

  • Coming in at number 10, a very Bristolian question: How to make a hot air balloon 
    Find out how to make a small hot air balloon at home and discover the engineering that goes into making a big one!

  • Everything you need to know about rocket science at number 9: How to make a rocket 
    How do you launch a rocket into space? Can you make a rocket at home?
  • At number 8: What’s inside the lungs? 
    Take a journey through a pig’s lungs, taking a look at what's on the inside in our dissection video.  
  • Cake and science... what's not to love? At number 6: How to bake a cake, with science! 
    Investigate the chemistry of cakes and show you a tasty experiment to try in your own laboratory/kitchen!
  • Coming in at number 5: What’s inside a heart? 
    Journey through a pig's heart and take a close look at the anatomy of this fascinating organ.
  • Another dissection video at number 4: What’s inside an eyeball? 
    Journey looking inside a horse eyeball, investigating the anatomy of this fascinating organ along the way.
  • A cosmic entry in an number 3: How to photograph the night sky 
    Learn how to take photos of the night sky, constellations, and deep sky objects like the Orion Nebula in this beginner's guide to astrophotography.
  • Super cool video at number 2: How to make instant ice
    Watch water transform instantly into ice and find out how to make super-cooled water at home.
  • And in at number 1... the questions we all want to answer to... How to make something invisible 
    Invisibility cloaks might sound like science fiction, but Ross of the Live Science Team shows you how a trick of light can make things disappear in this great experiment to try at home!

PHEW! A HUGE well done to our video producer, Ross Exton, and the fabulous stars of the show, our Live Science Team! Here's to the next one million views.

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Plants vs Solar Panels: Which is better at capturing solar energy?

Blogging science to life

Fri 5 June 2015,

Photosynthesis or photovoltaics? Leaves or solar panels? Which is better at capturing the energy from sunlight? Heather and Beth of the Live Science Team investigate the similarities and differences between these two processes, both powered by the Sun.

Leaves vs solar panels

To keep up to date with all our latest videos, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

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Volunteers' Week: Meet Ian Montgomery-Sporle!

Blogging science to life

Sun 7 June 2015, Jennifer Garrett

To celebrate national Volunteers' Week, we caught up with our fabulous volunteer Ian Montgomery-Sporle!

Ian in action

Tell us a little bit about yourself! 

When not volunteering down with At-Bristol I work as a full time member of staff for Ford retail within the Finance division.  I have been in Bristol and with Ford for almost 8 years after my move from Brighton, back to my old university town of Bristol.  At university I studied Nursing over at UWE, and have recently completed a stint with Open University doing Astrophysics.  

How long have you been volunteering for At-Bristol?

I have recently reached my 1 year anniversary with At-Bristol after completing my first full day with Live Science Team on 24 May 2014. Oh how time flies when you’re having fun!

Why did you decide to volunteer with us?

The driving force behind me wanting to join the volunteering programme with At-Bristol is that my partner and I wished to adopt, so I needed experience working with children with a full spectrum of ages.  I was told I only needed to do about 1 week with children, however to date I’m just shy of 9 weeks in total!

What do you like about volunteering?

The staff and other volunteers within At-Bristol are to me an extended family. Not only are they there to talk, assist and guide you through the day, but are also have snippets of information and knowledge that can be of great assistance when dealing with the public, but also outside of that environment.

What’s been your favourite moment so far? 

To date I can’t really think of anything I haven’t really enjoyed doing.  I am lucky to have been able to have had a holistic view of pretty much all areas within Live Science Team & Marketing, being in and out of At-Bristol, on Millennium Square or in a barn at Dayelsford Farm! The journey has and still is very enjoyable and I look forward to many more sessions ahead.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of volunteering? 

I would advise anyone to come down and volunteer here. It gives you a great chance to discover more about science, and science communication.  You will gain confidence and knowledge, and you get to work with a great bunch of people who's combined knowledge is pretty astounding! 

Find out more!

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