The University of Southampton

Hot on the trail! Exploring technology at Science Family Day

Published: 15 March 2011

Brothers Ollie and Cameron from Woolston were just two of the young visitors who took part in technology events organized by ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton's Science and Engineering Family Day held at the Highfield Campus last Saturday (12 March).

Along with their parents (also pictured here) Ollie and Cameron were 'detectives' in the 'Blood on the Stage Door' murder mystery event, devised and organized by ECS graduate Dr Reena Pau. Held in conjunction with the Nuffield Theatre, the event focuses on a dramatic (and ridiculous) murder, which is then solved by the participants, who use the results of different technological challenges in which they take part. Ollie and Cameron were especially good at managing traffic flows in the ECS undergraduate computer lab. This activity was organized by PhD student James Snowdon, building on his research on the computational modelling of traffic flows. Other clues in the event involved nutrition, sound, GPS, and pathology.

The inspiration for the event came from Reena’s work in schools as well as her passion for getting girls enthusiastic about science and technology. While interviewing schoolchildren for her PhD project she found that many didn’t understand how technology can be used in the real world. This suggested to her that merging theatre and technology would provide a narrative showing the real-world context in which technology can be used.

‘The narrative is really funny,’ said Reena, ‘but has the serious purpose of drawing the children into the story. As they work their way round the different technologies, they can understand their power in real-world settings and hopefully be excited by their potential.’

In another part of the University Dr Denis Nicole of ECS, with the help of a number of ECS students, organized the Technology Zone in the Activity Area, covering a range of activities such as robotics, augmented reality, computer games, energy transmission, and electronics. Thousands of people attended the event.

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