Lancashire Science Festival

ScienceGrrl have been getting out and about and meeting and greeting at science festivals this summer – we kicked off with Lancashire Science Festival in June, a brilliantly full-on day which Abby Ickringill (R&D Chemist at F2 Chemicals) will remind us of in this guest blog post.

We had a blast at Live from Jodrell Bank in July, as documented by Alison Atkin and Gemma Lewis, followed by some relaxing and pondering at Winchester Science Festival where Heather Williams was interviewed for the Pod Delusion.

We’re back at Live from Jodrell Bank this Friday and Saturday (30th and 31st August) so please catch us in our last trip out of the season, and pick up some of our new merchandise at the same time.

But now, over to Abby for fond reminiscences of the fun and games at Lancashire Science Festival…

This is a blog of firsts, my first ever blog entry and it’s about my time at my first ScienceGrrl event, the Lancashire Science Festival at UCLAN in Preston. To be honest I wasn’t too sure about what to expect, I was met by a building full of yellow balloons and yellow t-shirted people. I found my way to the ScienceGrrl stand and was met by Liz and Zoe, who badged and tagged me.


“Arthur” with my lucky ScienceGrrl rabbit

I was there as part of the “I’m a scientist, talk to me” event.  I am a fluorine chemist for a chemical manufacturer so I was there in my work greens, hard hat and my prop for the event was Arthur, my 18’’ spanner, which I spent most of the day trying to hold in a non-threatening manner.

Before the crowds arrived I had chance to wander around the science show floor in the huge sports hall at UCLAN. There were loads of exhibits from different fields of science, these included; robot racing, nurses giving health checks, making balloon kebabs with the IOP, cave painting with archaeologists, crime scene investigation and Super Mario demonstrating the history of computers. The engineers took a little bit too much pleasure in firing ping pong balls at my head (another first). Their reasoning was that I had a hard hat on, so I met their health and safety requirements. Needless to say their accuracy needed some improvement as every shot missed.

2500 people attended the festival and I think the ScienceGrrls managed to talk to most of them. We found it quite surreal to be chased by kids shouting, “There’s one! I found a scientist!” and then have them ask for our autograph. The idea was for the kids to talk to six ScienceGrrls and ask us some questions- other than “can you sign my card?” Within a few hours I had spoken to loads of kids, parents, Superman Jr, Batman Jr and an army of Cub Scouts. At first it was a challenge to adapt talking about my work and career to people that covered such a wide age range, but I think I had got the hang of it by the end of the day.

Bike Stunt

ScienceGrrls look nervous as they prepare for extreme mountain bikers to fly overhead, whilst Greg Foot explains the physics behind the cyclist’s trajectory

One of the best questions I got asked was “What was my favourite experiment that I had done?” I’d never really thought about it before, as I love doing all kinds of practical experiments. In the end I settled for the experiments I did during my PhD, when I worked with nicely coloured cosmetics, that didn’t smell bad or set things on fire, unlike my current job where I regularly work with elemental fluorine.

I had a great conversation with a 4-year old (and her mum), I was attempting to explain how the chemistry I do at work is a bit like baking a cake. She informed me that this couldn’t be right, as cake wasn’t made of chemicals. Both her and her mum looked surprised to hear that water, air, human beings and cake are all made of different chemicals and that chemistry is important to us all.

We had a unique experience with Andrei Burton and his extreme sports team. After watching their amazing “Man vs. Machine” show, a photo opportunity presented itself for the ScienceGrrls. We were stood on a table between two ramps, and then Jack back flipped his bike over the top of us, followed by free-runner Kei back flipping off the ramp as well. That was an exhilarating, and slightly scary, first for us all!

The day ended with a few drinks with my fellow ScienceGrrls. I had an absolutely amazing day at the Lancashire Science Festival, met some wonderful people, and finally a massive congratulations to the organisers for putting together an awesome event, and I can’t wait to participate at some more ScienceGrrl events.