Ever learnt to fly a plane, sat in a racing car or touched the moon while shopping? Doesn’t sound like your average trip, does it? But then ScienceX is not your average festival.
Interactive, immersive and – importantly – a whole lot of fun, ScienceX takes research out of the lab and to the people. Manchester’s ever-popular intu Trafford Centre, one of the UK’s busiest shopping destinations, offers the perfect setting.
Organised by The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, ScienceX debuted in 2016 with the aim of reaching out to groups not traditionally engaged with science: young people – particularly female – and those from deprived areas or locations with the lowest rates of participation in higher education. It’s been an annual event since, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
“ScienceX is about sparking interest in science, capturing the imagination and demonstrating that there is so much more to science and engineering than people may think,” says Fran Guratsky, Social Responsibility Officer in the Faculty.
Daniele Atkinson, the Faculty’s Social Responsibility Manager, agrees. “As a university we have a responsibility to attract and enable the brightest minds from all backgrounds to engage in studying and working in this field, yet there are many people who for whatever reason feel it is not something for them,” she explains.
”We really want ScienceX to challenge existing perceptions of scientists and enthuse people of all ages that science and engineering in the real world is exciting, accessible and relevant.”
For Dr Nick Weise, Lecturer and Deputy Director of Social Responsibility for the Department of Chemistry, the event is a chance for the general public “to experience the many different aspects of science and engineering at the University, from fun, inspiring activities to cutting-edge research and a chance to talk to those involved in pushing it forward”.
In addition to ScienceX, the University runs a number of cross-Faculty public engagement projects encouraging people to get involved. Science Spectacular is a family science fun day that takes place on campus in October, and in summer the Community Festival throws the University’s doors open to its neighbours for a behind-the-scenes look at the fantastic work that goes on.
Bigger and better
A big focus for ScienceX in 2019 is to encourage as many children as possible to join in the fun. Taking place on 9 and 10 March, it will offer more activities for children aged 5 to 11 than ever before.
As one attendee explained last year, it’s a great event for kids – especially as it’s free. “It gets them more involved with science and that’ll only be good for them as they’re growing up and deciding what subjects to take,” they said. "Things like this could encourage my son to do more.”
Last year’s ScienceX helped the University pick up a silver award at the CIPR Pride Awards North West for Best Event. This year, Fran is expecting it to be even better.
“With lots of new activities on offer, we believe ScienceX 2019 will be our best event yet.”
ScienceX took place at intu Trafford Centre on Saturday, 9 and Sunday, 10 March 2019.