Mole rats on display
Chris Faulkes, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and Julie Freeman, School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, were invited to take part in the 2018 Royal Society Summer exhibition with their RAT Systems project. As the deadline to be part of 2019 approaches, they share their experiences of the exhibition:
We got an invite to take part in this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition after one of the organisers saw our stand at New Scientist Live in 2017. After discussion we decided that a day event with the live animals, expert talks and creative interactive activities would work best. We were given a great space (the Kohn Centre, a large panelled room with a big screen) enabling us to display the animals in their portable burrow system (featured at a number of QM events), show images and a live video stream.
The morning session comprised two thirty-minute talks for school pupils where we presented “The unique world of the naked mole-rat”. Here we outlined their unusual biology and the science, rationale and applications behind our research. We also explained how real-time data collected from a colony of naked mole-rats generated cross-discipline science and art projects. These encompassed biology, electronic engineering and computer science, and maths, for the creation of 2D and 3D digital art.
In the afternoon we ran naked mole-rat life drawing workshops with an artist, where people of all ages were able to observe the animals, ask questions and create some amazing artwork to take home with them. As usual we found that people were very engaged (almost mesmerised!) and stayed for a long time, often returning with friends for more! You can see a photo gallery of the artworks drawn here.
We are grateful for the support of the QMUL Public Engagement team and the Royal Society themselves who helped us with small grants to run the event, provide all materials to and to create stickers and pencils to give away - these were a great success!
The Summer Science Exhibition is a great place for public engagement, and its scope has expanded hugely over the years. Depending on what day, time of day and venue, the audience will vary – this is perhaps something to consider, especially if your target audience is more the specialized scientific community. We had a very positive experience and a lot of fun.
You can learn more about the naked mole-rats and RAT.systems data art at http://rat.systems
RAT.Systems won a Public Engagement Inspire Award at the 2018 Engagement and Enterprise Awards. Nominations for the 2019 Engagement and Enterprise Awards are now open until 10 December. Nominate yourself or a colleague here.