Big Bang @ Weston

Friday 27th & Saturday 28th April 2018

As part of the Quekett’s microscopy outreach programme, several members ran a stand at the Big Bang @ Weston, a free science and engineering festival that provided activities, workshop, exhibitions, shows, competitions, hands-on activities and talks for school and college students on the first day and families on the second day. The Quekett members involved included David Spears (who organised the event), Chris Thomas, Grenham Ireland, Jeremy Poole, Joan Bingley, Klaus Kemp, Mike Crutchley, Pam Hamer, Robert Ratford and Steve Durr.

Thanks to David Spears for the following report:

The event was staged in a large marquee at The Tropicana in the North Somerset seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare and attracted lots of visitors, despite the wet weather. It was a huge success with over 2500 people attending over the two days; at least 1600 of these were children.

Pier at Weston-super-Mare
Beach and pier at Weston-super-Mare [RR]

Marquee at The TropicanaMarquee at The Tropicana [SD]

A giant truck called the Titan was installed with its pop-out sides opened to give a large exhibition space for owners RS Components to demonstrate all kinds of electronic and mechanical devices.  RS was the headline sponsor.

There were over 42 exhibitors including Bristol University Biomedical Department who brought furry viruses, white cells and bacteria and taught youngsters how our immune system works; girls from Badminton School exploring magnetism with dramatic and interesting demonstrations; and several industrial companies that put on mind-blowing virtual reality shows.

On the Quekett stand, Mike Crutchley showed off his macro stacking system, and Jeremy Poole, Klaus Kemp and Grenham Ireland showed off their equipment and expertise, displaying a variety of living and dead organisms. Several members had video cameras attached to their microscopes so a whole group of visitors could see the display. I set up a modified Beck microscope with Chinese lenses, LED lighting and a Sony A6000 camera sending high-definition images to an HD television.

Quekett Microscopical Club standQuekett Microscopical Club stand [RR]

Quekett Microscopical Club standQuekett Microscopical Club stand [RR]

Quekett Microscopical Club standGrenham Ireland with the Quekett Microscopical Club stand [SD]

Quekett Microscopical Club standQuekett Microscopical Club stand with Robert Ratford’s live specimens [RR]

Quekett Microscopical Club standVisitors to the Quekett Microscopical Club stand [SD]

Quekett Microscopical Club standMike Crutchley and David Spears [SD]

Mike Crutchley demonstrating planktonMike Crutchley demonstrating plankton [DS]

Quekett Microscopical Club standPam Hamer and Joan Bingley with visitors to the Quekett Microscopical Club stand [CT]

Joan Bingley and Pam HamerJoan Bingley and Pam Hamer [RR]

Grenham IrelandGrenham Ireland [RR]

Grenham Ireland with a young visitorGrenham Ireland with a young visitor [DS]

Visitors to the Quekett Microscopical Club standVisitors to the Quekett Microscopical Club stand [CT]

Klaus Kemp brought the modified Lomo microscope that he uses to arrange diatoms and scales and a Leitz microscope for admiring his amazing slides.

Klaus KempKlaus Kemp [RR]

Klaus Kemp explaining diatoms to young visitorsKlaus Kemp explaining diatoms to young visitors [DS]

Jeremy PooleJeremy Poole [SD]

Display of photomicrographsDisplay of photomicrographs by Mike Crutchley [RR]

Salvinia has water-repellent leavesSalvinia has water-repellent leaves [CT]

Unusual hairs that repel water from Salvinia leavesUnusual hairs that repel water from Salvinia leaves [CT]

The Quekett was not the only microscopy organisation represented, the Royal Microscopical Society had a stand too, promoting their microscope activity kits for schools. The RMS stand featured the school binocular microscopes which were demonstrated by Peter Sainsbury and Owen Green; they attracted a lot of interest from children, teachers and parents. The RMS donated one of these microscopes as a prize for the competition winning primary school. This was won by a school from Taunton, and certainly caused a lot of excitement in the school.

Royal Microscopical Society standRoyal Microscopical Society stand [SD]

Royal Microscopical Society standRoyal Microscopical Society stand [SD]

Royal Microscopical Society standRoyal Microscopical Society stand [RR]

Royal Microscopical Society standRoyal Microscopical Society stand [DS]

Peter Sainsbury explaining lenses to young visitorsPeter Sainsbury explaining lenses to young visitors [DS]

Carl Zeiss had a stand too, showing an interesting development in the use of microscopes in education. Tom Quick showed two video microscopes attached to a monitor. They have built in cameras that can be linked wirelessly to a classroom electronic interactive display. This enables the teacher to see what each student is seeing on their microscope, and display it to the class. This seems to me to be a huge leap forward in teaching technology.

Zeiss Stemi 305 stereomicroscopeZeiss Stemi 305 stereomicroscope [RR]

Tom Quick with a very young visitorTom Quick with a very young visitor [DS]

Keith Taylor from Hitachi brought one of their table-top scanning electron microscopes. This instrument, the TM4000, is remarkable for such a small machine in that it can image uncoated biological specimens with great clarity. A locust head was being displayed and really good fine detail was apparent. Another great feature was a video camera mounted in the chamber to help orientate the specimen. The pump-down time was very impressive – only a few minutes; my LEO 430 takes 20 minutes to get a decent vacuum and I have to coat my specimens.

It was very satisfying to see the large number of microscopes brought along by universities and colleges for use on their stands. The University of West of England (UWE) in particular had an impressive array of student models, though I did see a cheap zoom macro instrument elsewhere that wasn’t performing well.

The event was such a huge success that we have been asked to repeat it next year at the same venue. The huge interest from children, their teachers as well as adults makes it worthwhile to take part with a display because of the reach to a targeted audience.

Report by David Spears

Photographs by David Spears, Chris Thomas, Robert Ratford and Steve Durr (Parental consent was obtained for all photographs of children)

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