Bradford Science Festival

Bradford Science Festival is returning for a fourth year to inspire children in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths and you don’t have to be in West Yorkshire to take part

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The fourth Bradford Science Festival will be a decidedly different affair from the previous three. Centred on the city’s National Science and Media Museum the nine-day event will continue to feature hands-on, in-house activities provided by several exhibitors but will this year extend into the realm of online resources, home-based activities and even radio shows. There will also be printed material available to children through local primary schools.

However, the festival’s ethos remains. “It’s really important to us that we reach not just the people who are already engaged with science, and we aim to do that by bringing science out into the city,” explains Elaine Richmond, partnership and participation manager at NSMM. “The festival is aimed at families as we know they play a really important role in shaping young people’s career choices.”

Themes for 2020 will be Science in the Sustainable City, Scientists in the City and Science in Bradford, the latter highlighting opportunities to progress into jobs associated with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the local area.

“Our aim is to create a festival where STEM is fun, inspiring, engaging and surprising, creating positive images of science for young people and their families,” says Richmond. “If families aren’t familiar with science then the young person is unlikely to think about STEM careers when looking at their future. We aim to change that.”

One of the key exhibitors this year will be Noisy Toys. Based in West Yorkshire, Noisy Toys is an organisation dedicated to teaching young people how technology works by, according to founder Steve Summers, “taking stuff apart and making new things from the innards”.

The toys cross over between physics, technology and music, using fun, accessibility, playfulness and experimentation.

Scavenger Labs is the name Noisy Toys has given its festival workshops, which entail youngsters upcycling what would normally be regarded as waste.

Summers says: “We use the art of unmaking to get free resources from electronic waste, which is then used to make strange musical contraptions, instruments and installations. These labs promote the issues around e-waste and as soon as I speak to children about environmental issues they are almost always engaged.

“Kids are more aware of these issues than adults often give them credit for. Those guys have exactly the right idea about how a science festival should run. They don’t hide in their building; they get out into the town, the community, into shopping centres and City Park.”

Over 40,000 people visited last year’s event. Additional exhibitions for 2020 are curated in chorus with national bodies the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics, along with local organisations Born in Bradford, Aire Rivers Trust and the universities of both Leeds and Bradford. And despite the difficulties of staging such an event during the current pandemic, Richmond remains upbeat.

“When it became clear things couldn’t run as they have previously, we had to think about how we could still reach as many people as possible. We really want people to enjoy science and to get engaged with science.”

Bradford Science Festival is at various venues and online, 24 Oct-1 Nov (scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk)

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