News A Trip to the Family Weekend The British Science Festival is the longest established science festival in Europe -having run since 1831- and was hosted in Swansea for the fifth time last week. The aim of the festival is to celebrate the importance of science and to position it at the heart of our culture and society. The four-day festival consisted of over 100 free events, talks and performances showcasing the best and most exciting science, research and technology of today. It was immediately followed by a free Family Weekend hosted at the Waterfront Museum on Swansea Bay which my daughter and I visited on the Saturday. The event consisted of seven interactive zones; The Bug Hub, Body and Mind, Food, Gadgets and Gizmos, Planet Earth, On Wheels and Back in Time. We were told that we would be getting ‘hands on’ with all kinds of science at the event- this certainly proved true! Within just 30 minutes my daughter, having built a playdough circuit with the help of the Institute of Physics Wales, had already learned that electricity 'moves one way'. Over in the Planet Earth Hub we learned that Orca, or Killer Whales, are actually dolphins and are the largest of the dolphin family. We also learned about seagrass, the secret gardens under the sea. Seagrass isn't a seaweed but a group of flowering plants that live in shallow sheltered areas along our coastline. It can help to filter coastal pollutants, produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide but, unfortunately, is now under threat and considered a protected species. We boarded Swansea University’s research boat, Noctiluca, which was moored on the quay outside the museum. The children were able to control the underwater robot, observe underwater footage and be captain of the ship. We also took part in a quiz and learned that jellyfish have no brains and that fish have taste buds covering over 70% of their body. Then it was back to dry land and on to the Body and Mind zone where we could meet the Wales Air Ambulance team, and try a virtual reality dementia experience. At the museum we also learnt about the Down2Earth project which has many resources available for schools, such as a variety of meteorites, dinosaur fossils and an online simulator where pupils can recreate some of the craters we have on earth. Down2Earth is run by the Faulkes Telescope Project, which provides free resources for science education and The National Museum of Wales. At The On Wheels Zone we were told about the Bloodhound Project which is an international engineering adventure using a 1000mph World Land Speed record attempt to inspire a generation about science. We were also told about The Curiosity Project, a 3 three-year programme by Siemens, whose aim is to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics to life in the UK. The UK is great at engineering but there is a problem; there aren't enough young people studying these subjects. Finally we visited The Bug Hub where we were asked if we were brave enough to eat an insect. The answer? A resounding no from us! Next we ventured to the ‘Love a Maggot’ stand, where we learnt about a campaign that Swansea University has launched to raise awareness of the use of living maggots as a clinical treatment to help clear and heel chronic wounds. We saw an African giant train millipede, and learnt that insects are one of the most successful groups of living organisms on earth. They comprise of approximately 90% of all known animal species! Swansea has a long association with science, with Swansea University being a world-class, research-led university, and the festival has been a great opportunity to celebrate this. If the aim of the family weekend was to take science out of the classroom, and show that science is part of our culture and affects our everyday lives, then the event was a resounding success. Emma Smith visited the Family Weekend with her 6-year-old daughter, Vivienne, on the weekend of 10-11 September. She works as a chartered chemist and enjoys writing in her spare time.