Blogging science to life
Thu 23 August 2012, Written by: Heather
Olympic Games? We loved them. Paralympics? We’re just warming up. RoboWorld Cup? Er…
The opening ceremony might not have been quite as extravagant and the ‘athletes’ competing might not be household names, but the skills on display are no less impressive in the annual ‘robot Olympics’, this year hosted in the UK for the first time ever. At-Bristol has been transformed into a hive of robotic activity as over 200 competitors from around the world take over the top floor to battle it out in the hopes of being crowned world champions, showcasing the best in artificial intelligence technology as they do so.
The Cup kicked off yesterday with enough competitive tension and cheering crowds to rival the Olypmics Men’s 100m Final. Step aside Bolt: this time, all eyes were on Plymouth’s Usain Volt as he stepped up to defend his title as world champion in the tense sprint competition.
It was nail-biting stuff as the previous world record was not only beaten by Volt himself, but then smashed by Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic team. Gracious in his defeat, Volt kept on smiling – who knows, perhaps he’s got his sights set on next year’s contest already?
Plymouth are now hoping Volt’s teammate Mobot the Robot lives up to his namesake Mo Farrah’s Olympic success when he competes in the mini marathon on Saturday.
Mobot and his fellow endurance athletes will be put to the test over a gruelling outdoor course that includes inclines, turns and uneven surfaces – enough to challenge even the most advanced robot runners!
During this morning’s session, the biggest crowds were to be found jostling around the basketball court as competitors wowed the spectators with some impressive dribbling and slam-dunking skills.
The sprint, marathon and basketball contests are just some of the eight disciplines making up the HuroCup, the robot equivalent of the Olympic decathlon and heptathlon. From running to weightlifting, and from football to climbing, the HuroCup is the ultimate test of stamina, skill and versatility.
On the scaled-down football pitches, it was less about the fancy footwork of the human game and more about demonstrating some seriously advanced robotics engineering, as teams started to battle it out in the various soccer contests.
From the human-esque robots in the AndroSot tournament to the fast, aggressive play of the MiroSot competitors, there were enough unpredictable tackles and last-minute goals to keep even the most hardened Premiership season ticket holder on the edge of their seat! We’ve even installed a webcam above the MiroSot pitch so you can catch all the fast-paced action here.
Meanwhile, off-pitch it’s a battle of the best-dressed bots with Plymouth University Humanoids and The University of Manitoba’s Snobots flying high in the fashion stakes. The Plymouth robots’ child-sized Adidas trainers not only make them look the part, but also help them see errors when they put their feet down and improve their overall balance. The Snobots, however, are fully kitted out in team jerseys – and top fashion marks go to Jimmy the robot for proudly sporting a knitted bobble hat (essential regalia for pre-season training in Canada) lovingly hand crafted by (human) team-mate Diana!
If you fancy coming down and cheering on one of the UK’s two teams – the Bristol Panthers and the University of Plymouth – then entry to the contest is completely free.
The competition continues on Friday from 10am to 6pm, and on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.
If you can’t make it to At-Bristol, then keep up to date with all the action by following us on Twitter or using the hashtag #FIRAroboworldcup, or check out the latest photos and videos on Facebook and Youtube.
Blogging science to life
Fri 20 July 2012, Written by: Heather
If you’ve been down to At-Bristol recently you won’t have failed to notice that there have been some pretty exciting happenings downstairs… Over the past few weeks our cracking squad of designers, experts and artists have been putting the finishing touches to many months of hard work by our Exhibitions Team. They’ve been painting oceans onto a giant globe, carrying round plates of rotting food, and lining up the autocue in our new TV studio. Things really started to heat up on Tuesday, when we invited the press for a sneak peak at what’s going on and even the Lord Mayor was spotted donning his safety goggles and triggering a mini volcanic eruption in the Live Lab!
But what’s it all about? Today we launch our brand new exhibition: Our World – no more waste. Funded by the SITA Trust, the newest addition to At-Bristol explores how the world is a closed system: for over 4 billion years, nothing’s come in – and nothing’s gone out either. That means the Earth has had to come up with some pretty ingenious ways of dealing with its waste! Our new exhibits take a closer look at how nothing on Earth is wasted and everything is recycled into something new, no matter how different it might seem from the original.
First up, we invite you to travel back in time 6 billion years to the very beginnings of the Earth. If you stand just outside At-Bristol in Anchor Square, you’ll notice this is the start of our Living Timeline, an exhibit of pretty epic – and completely to-scale – proportions. Follow the orange line in through the entrance and onto the exhibitions floor: for every metre you get closer, you travel 100 million years through time! 460 million years ago the timeline becomes a 3D valley landscape – and this is where the fun really starts. Reach down into the valley and see if you can pick up the virtual critters that roam around there: pioneering augmented reality technology invites you to play with the slimy snails and tickle the tiny trilobites. Arachnophobes watch out: you might even find that ancient spiders start scuttling up your arm!
Once you’ve followed the timeline right up to the present day – bearing in mind that humans have only been around for the last 2mm of it – step inside our giant Earth dome and imagine you’re standing right at the centre of the globe. In here we invite you to discover some of the key cycles that keep the world ticking over: watch how water freezes to ice crystals and then melts back to liquid in front of your very eyes, and be amazed by time lapse photography showing seeds sprouting – then see the same photography showing a plate of food decomposing at super-speed! The magic globe invites you to track hurricanes as they move across the Earth’s surface, trace Co2 emissions over time, or switch over to night-time and compare levels of light pollution from all over the world.
Step outside the dome and you’ll spot what appears to be a huge CCTV camera panning over the new exhibition. Don’t worry, this isn’t Big Brother watching you! It’s actually our fascinating Heat Cam: take the controls and sweep across the floor to check out who’s hot and who’s not by discovering how people are losing heat from their bodies into the surroundings. That’s some pretty hot stuff!
Finally, fancy yourself as the next Michael Fish or Sian Lloyd? It’s lights, camera, action! as you try your hand at presenting your own weather report in our high-tech TV studio. Beware: reading the autocue, pointing to the right place on the map AND maintaining a TV presenter smile is not quite as easy as Ruth Murray, Content Researcher in At-Bristol, makes it seem!
Of course that’s not all: we also invite you to discover how the local landscape has changed by examining our soil core from the Gordano Valley, blast an air cannon at our shimmery wall to investigate currents, make your own volcanic eruption, and much more… but that’s for you to come and check out!
Our World - no more waste is funded by the SITA Trust, and is now open! Buy tickets to visit!
Blogging science to life
Mon 16 July 2012, Written by: Helen
Helen Featherstone, At-Bristol Content Research and UWE Researcher, gives us the insider information on how an exhibition is made and the processes behind it.
We’ve been having a great time developing our latest exhibition: Our World – no more waste which is funded by the SITA Trust. The exhibition looks at how the Earth recycles everything and asks if we can we take inspiration from this.
My role in the team is to find out about the science, come up with ideas for exhibits, and to work with designers and visitors to make those exhibits go from idea to reality. But it’s not easy making exhibits! The exhibits have to be appealing, useable, reflect the science accurately and be built within financial and technical limits. To make sure that we manage this we work closely with scientists and with our visitors. Did you know that every bit of science in At-Bristol gets checked by a scientist? And every exhibit has been tested several times by our visitors before we build it?
Sometimes exhibit development goes smoothly, sometimes it doesn’t… We wanted to have a tank of worms in Our World to show how worms recycle dead plant matter and make the soil better for growing new plants.
Unfortunately, it turns out that worms are camera shy. We knew they liked dark places, but hadn’t realised quite how much. Also, when we asked our visitors about seeing worms in the exhibition, they liked the idea, but they really wanted to hold the worms. So, we changed our mind and took worms out of the exhibition space.
Taking out the wormery left us with an empty space. What should we put into the exhibition instead of worms? One of our friendly scientists had told us at the beginning of the project that “soil supports all life on earth” and that thought has stayed with us throughout. We had to have soil in the exhibition somehow. We wanted to cover how important soil is because it supports plants and plants capture sunlight. Without plants, there’d be no life on Earth. So we decided to have plants growing in the exhibition. Visitors can use time lapse photography to see how seeds grow and change in the exhibit called Little growers.
This is how our exhibits start. We get the technical bits sorted out first, make sure our visitors can use it, and then we make it look nice.
Now Little growers looks like this:
I have a great job here in At-Bristol. It’s a creative role which also satisfies my desire to find out about the latest science. I get to meet our visitors and I find out the latest bits of kit and technology which make our exhibits work from touch screens to Arduinoes and how to use those to bring science to life!
So next time you are in At-Bristol have a look to see if we’re developing any new exhibits and if so make sure you help us out by trying it and giving your feedback!
You can see Little Growers and the rest of the Our World - no more waste exhibition when it opens on Friday 20th July! Our World - no more waste is supported by the Sita Trust.
Blogging science to life
Thu 12 July 2012, Written by: Chris
The City of Bristol might not be basking in sunshine at the moment, but we're still enjoying the summertime vibe here on the Harbourside. Schools are breaking up for the holidays and university students are hurling their graduation hats in the air (ok, so Bristol University undergraduates don't actually wear caps). However, one exciting new 'institution' isn't closing its doors for summer - in fact the Children's University launches this month in the City and At-Bristol are proud to be an official Learning Destination for the summer holidays and beyond.
The Children's University is a national programme to validate children's learning outside the classroom. We know that lots of valuable learning takes place outside the classroom and this initiative is all about giving credit to the pupils who take part in educational opportunities outside of school. With hundreds of hands-on exhibits, a new science show, Live Lab activities and more, At-Bristol provides countless opportunities to keep learners engaged and excited over the summer break. In the coming months we're expecting to see lots of budding scientists from City Academy, Millpond Primary, Bannerman Road Community School, Easton Primary, Whitehall Primary and Barton Hill school.
On arrival, our Visitor Services team will be ready to check 'Learning Passports' for pupils registered with the Children's University (through their schools listed above). Every visit earns a stamp in their passport and with so much to do in At-Bristol, we look forward to welcoming learners back again and again until there's no more room for new stamps! Once passports are full of stamps (and brains full of interesting science facts and ideas), it's time to graduate. The first graduation Ceremony is in November 2012, taking place at Bristol Cathedral alongside other graduates from across the City. What an incredible opportunity!
So this summer, you may well be using a passport to explore new places abroad, but there's a new passport around for exploring the amazing world of science right here on your doorstep!
Blogging science to life
Thu 14 June 2012, Written by: Zoë
It’s the time of year again when At-Bristol descends upon the Cheltenham Science Festival, helping entertain visitors with interactive fun until it closes on Sunday.
The At-Bristol team are in the Discovery Zone, where the attraction’s in-house science communicators are bringing science to life with hands-on activities and experiments such as a vein viewer – yes you can really see your own veins using near-infrared light, a Proscope which allows you to see your skin, nails and hair magnified and Power Lab where you can monitor your own heart beat using an ECG (Electrocardiograph).
You can also explore the fantastic world of forces with At-Bristol’s portable exhiblets - discover all about the force of pressure and electrifying effect of electricity!
So far, hundreds of school kids and teachers have had a go at the various activities and are loving seeing their veins and looking in their ears with the Proscope! So if you’re coming along to Cheltenham, make sure you come and find us and say hello!
Blogging science to life
Tue 12 June 2012, Written by: Sarah
On my previous visits to At-Bristol, I’ve always wondered what the huge black cylinder is in the far corner of the exhibition floor, looming over the exhibitions like a giant statue or battery. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that it is, in fact, exactly that – a battery. It’s a eutectic, or phase change, tank containing thousands of purple plastic balls that change from solid to liquid and back again at certain temperatures, storing and releasing energy as they do so and heating and cooling the At-Bristol building.
This is just one of the many things I learned whilst on a tour of the building at At-Bristol, delving deep in to the murky maze of pipes that make up At-Bristol’s heating and cooling systems and learning about how At-Bristol has become a beacon of sustainability. After the tour had finished, I realised something had been niggling at me – their building system has helped them to achieve a level of sustainability through energy saving methods that are still unique today. Why has no other building in Bristol attempted to do the same?
It seems that when it comes to making a building sustainable, At-Bristol has the answer. But in order to make the whole city sustainable, a universal solution may not be the best. Chris Dunford, At-Bristol’s Sustainability Officer, makes a good point – “our building runs on night-time surplus electricity; if all the other buildings in the area started to do the same, then the electricity would no longer be surplus.” At-Bristol’s building system was also installed at the resurrection of a derelict building, and most buildings and businesses would have to work with the building system they already have. It would be almost impossible to tear down a building and start from scratch, installing the complex network of machinery and pipes required to run a building on electricity alone. It’s about choosing the most sensible solution for individual buildings to improve their sustainability.
Chris’ building systems tour being enjoyed by staff and volunteers now also forms part of the workshop “Sustainability on all scales”
But all is not lost - the team at At-Bristol is determined to get everyone else on board with sustainability, through exhibitions, tours and workshops. The new exhibition, Our World – no more waste (supported by the SITA Trust), demonstrating how in the natural world nothing is wasted. The exhibits will use real time data to show climate change on an interactive globe, and include a timeline that leaves the building and snakes out on to Anchor Square. The interactive timeline will become a 3-D model of a valley, showing the evolution of life on Earth and will show creatures reacting to visitors and the environment. The brand new workshop “Sustainability on all scales’ is also getting schools to think sustainably, giving Key Stage 4 students the opportunity to explore the building systems in detail and design engineering solutions around sustainability issues.
At-Bristol is reminding us that it’s not just about what their building can do, and encouraging businesses to change their attitudes as well as their boilers. It’s about getting everyone involved in making smaller changes, so that we can have a positive impact on the environment as a community.
Thanks Sarah for that great blog!
On 12 and 14 June, we're hosting behind the scenes tours of our super green building as part of Bristol's Big Green Week. Book your tickets and join us!
Blogging science to life
Wed 18 April 2012, Written by: James
I did this with a rose at school and wanted to see if it would work with a daffodil after seeing the dissection when visiting At Bristol. I asked the lady doing the daffodil dissection whether the daffodil would change into two different colours and she said she was not sure and maybe I could try it at home.
My flower experiment
Can you make a daffodil two different colours?
I thought it would go Purple.
- Two cups
- Red and blue food colouring
- Two large paper clips
- Fill cups with water and add red food colouring to one cup and blue to the other
- Cut up the stem of the daffodil by 6cm
- Place half of the cut stem in the red food colouring and secure to edge of cup with paper clip
- Place the other half of the cut stem in the blue food colouring and secure to edge of cup with paper clip
- Leave over night for best results.
Half went red and half went blue.
The daffodil went two different colours but they did not mix to make purple. Therefore, the capillaries do not join and my prediction was incorrect.
This was my 5th visit to At Bristol and this time I looked at my veins, weighed the brains, made a fossil, did an animation, played with the large magnets and iron fillings and spun discs on the revolving plate. I always find it an interesting place to come and have fun. I am looking forward to returning in August to experiment more.
We loved your experiment and can't wait to see you again! :)
Blogging science to life
Mon 16 April 2012, Written by: Phil
What is it like to be the Chief Executive of At-Bristol? My name is Phil Winfield and I started in the job on 2nd April so I haven’t been here long, but I am rapidly finding out!
I come from Winchester where I was managing INTECH Science Centre & Planetarium so I am not new to the world of science centres, but of course At-Bristol is a special place and so I have a lot to learn about the organisation and Bristol.
My first impressions are of a really friendly and enthusiastic staff team who have given me a very warm welcome – I have been introduced to most of them, but please don’t test me on their names! They are doing a great job making At-Bristol a vibrant place to work and visit.
Most of my time so far has been spent getting to know how the organisation works and who does what, but because it is the Easter school holidays it has been great to get out into the exhibition and see lots of visitors interacting with the exhibits.
One thing that always amazes me is the different ways that visitors explore the exhibits. Having been involved in exhibit design I know that it is easy to be fooled into thinking that visitors will behave in a certain way – in fact the only thing you can be sure of is that visitors will all behave very differently and usually in ways you don’t expect! So it’s always good to watch visitors having fun and having what I call ‘light bulb’ moments when they are inspired or excited, as they discover something new.
There has been a lot going on over the Easter holidays with special ‘live science’ experiments and science shows in the exhibition, plus activities in the Millennium Square - we have been really busy.
Rainy days bring more visitors and Easter Monday was especially busy with over 1700 people here; so imagine my surprise when on day 5 in the job I was asked to do an interview with ITV about our Easter so far. I am pleased to say that it went well which is a relief - saying the wrong thing on TV after 5 days in the job would not be good!
I still have people to meet and of course a lot more to learn, but at least I am starting to escape from my office which is the best way to get a feel for the organisation.
I am also very keen to get to know Bristol better; it is such an exciting and diverse city with lots going on, I would really like At-Bristol to be at the heart of things as we develop and grow what we do for schools and the general public.
In the meantime I am still finding my way around, so if you see someone looking lost that could be me, please be kind enough to point me in the direction of At-Bristol!
Blogging science to life
Wed 11 April 2012, Written by: Zoë
At-Bristol is one of the best places in the city for star spotting – not of the celebrity variety (although we do have a number of famous faces through our door) but of the kind up in the sky.
On Monday 30 April, At-Bristol is joining forces with Exmoor Dark Sky Discovery to bring you an adult-only (16+) evening event: Urban Stargazing. The night will include lots of star spotting, a Planetarium show, Telescope Clinic, talks and Q&A sessions with experts, plus a licensed bar so you can enjoy a tipple on the terrace whilst looking for the rings of Saturn - the night is going to be super-nova!
Urban Stargazing runs from 8.30pm – 11.00pm. If you already know your Ursa Major from your Dobsonian then there will be plenty to get involved with, and if you’re a complete beginner to astronomy then discovering the sky with Urban Stargazing is the perfect way to start.
If you already own a telescope but need a few tips then bring it along to our Telescope Clinic, run by the Exmoor Stargazers and Bristol Astronomical Society. They’ll also be giving advice to people considering buying a telescope, and will show you how to make the most of your local stargazing areas.
If the evening decides to be a rainy one, it won’t put a dampener on things as there’s still plenty to do with our waterproof activities! As well as Dr. Alapini’s presentation about exoplanets – mysterious worlds far beyond our own Solar System – and a Planetarium show, you’ll be able handle real meteorites and eat space ice-cream – a must-do for any budding astronomer!
The booking details are below, hope you can make it, and if not, feel free to forward it onto friends who might enjoy an evening of astronomy!
Thanks to funding from The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), we are able to offer reduced ticket prices for this event. Standard tickets are £6 and £5 for concessions and At-Bristol members. Please note that this event is not for under 16s.
Tickets are available via At-Bristol’s booking line: 0845 345 1235 (9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday excluding Bank Holidays), or from the At-Bristol Front Desk any day, 10am – 5pm. Tickets can be collected from the At-Bristol Front Desk in advance or on the night. Online booking is available (please note this incurs a 10% fee)
Blogging science to life
Tue 3 April 2012, Written by: Zoë
March madness was sooo last week…this week (and next week) is all about Egg-cellent Easter and all that is on offer in At-Bristol!
If you’re looking for a special treat, of the non-chocolate variety, then we’ve got loads for you to do both inside and outside the venue, so come and join in the fun!
Inside we’ve got Spring Unearthed; our brand new activities available until 15 April. Visit Live Lab for the chance to create your own cress head character or take part in a daffodil dissection! Did you know there are over 25,000 varieties of daffodils with colours ranging from yellow to pink! Find out all there is to know about the famous flower and see what is hiding behind the petals.
Spring Unearthed also gives you the chance to discover how fossils are formed, and even how to make your own! Discover the cycle of rocks as you become a geologist for the day, investigating how one rock can form another or find out how old a tree was on the day you were born using tree rings!
The adventure continues from 6 March to 28 May in our latest presenter-led Planetarium show Spring Night Sky. Get intergalactic as you sit back and discover what wonders you can find in the sky from your own back garden this spring.
For the younger explorers there is our Little Stars Planetarium Show designed especially for the under 5 astronomers. Join a member of the At-Bristol team as they lead you through a story that will take you out of this world and introduce younger adventurers to the spring night sky.
Outside, At-Bristol’s Millennium Square is also chock(olate) full of activity! On Easter Saturday and Sunday, Toy Story 3 is being shown on the Big Screen at 11am and 1pm both days so why not come down to watch the characters larger than life. If you fancy being more active, then Trunki are holding rather unusual Trunki races on Saturday (and possibly Sunday but that has yet to be confirmed) from 10am-3pm so if you want to race The Gruffalo, a fire engine or be a part of Team GB, this is your chance!
Ok, so what’s Easter without a bit of chocolate? Celebrate the Chocolate Festival by getting creative and doodling on one of the biggest canvases in the city – the At-Bristol building! On the 7 and 8 April, Drawn In Bristol will be on hand to inspire and illustrate the glass under the colonnade by the At-Bristol café.
Free hot drink!
Feeling peckish after all this activity? The At-Bristol café will be serving a variety of homemade chocolaty treats including chocolate & toffee muffins, chocolate chip cake, brownies and blondies to name a few! As a science centre, we know that chocolate can make you thirsty, so to add to the chocolaty treat, we will give you a free standard sized hot drink when you purchase any of our yummy chocolate creations!
If you fancy coming to At-Bristol, you can buy tickets by calling our bookings team 0845 345 1235 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm excluding Bank Holidays) or buy online