We're kicking off our Engagement Blog for the 2023-24 academic year with two posts from James Piercy, the Involvement and Engagement lead in the Centre for Trauma Sciences at Queen Mary. In the first post, James writes about taking an activity to the Cheltenham Science Festival 2023, supported by a CPE Small Grant.
Volunteers at Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Science Festival is one of the UK’s largest celebrations of science and technology. Featuring talks, interactive activities, exhibitions and book signings, the festival sees thousands of people of all ages engaging with scientists and engineers to raise aspirations, share findings and celebrate new endeavours.
A team from the Centre for Trauma Sciences visited the festival in 2023 to talk about their research into bleeding and clotting disorders which develop in seriously injured patients.
The team took an interactive activity aimed at students and designed to stimulate conversations about emergency medicine and how bleeding patients are tested and treated. The activity ran from 6-9 June with schools bringing groups of students to the Discover Zone. Ages ranged from 6-18 and we also met and spoke to staff. People were invited to draw a small fake blood sample from an arm and to test this by shaking it in a small tube. Some samples would form a clot in the tube whilst others remained liquid. The results of each test were recorded by placing a model blood cell in a beaker so that over the day the proportion of samples which failed to clot were recorded. The tubes were deliberately designed to reveal the correct percentages. Research shows that around 40% of patients will suffer clotting problems. The activity had a built in evaluation tool, simply counting how many tubes were used told the team how many people took part. 884 samples were tested over the time the stand ran. Not everybody the team talked to took samples, the estimated total engagements was 1700.
As well as demonstrating the effects on blood, the Centre was keen to have a diverse range of volunteers on the stand. Showing students a range of roles in medical research and that people like them do these jobs was important. Over the four days of the festival 10 volunteers took part, this included medical students, clinical research fellows and support staff. The volunteers were kept busy but enjoyed the experience. The researchers welcomed the chance to spend time with each other outside of the university to discuss their projects and the team learnt from each other about engaging with visitors of all ages.
Alongside the stand, engagement lead James Piercy presented an interactive show called Brilliant Blood. Demonstrations, audience participation and pictures gave 150 primary school children and introduction to blood and circulation. The show was presented in a theatre and was very well received by students and teachers. The show will be offered to other schools and become part of the programme at Centre of the Cell to ensure legacy from the project.
Following this event there has been enthusiasm to do more. The team are keen to expand on the activity and to develop new ways of talking about complicated and emotive topics around trauma medicine. Plans are already coming together for 2024 when we hope to be part of Norwich Science Festival in February and the Festival of Communities in June.