Our education coordinators for North West England, Katayune Presland and Charlotte Still, ran a stall at ScienceX, a science and engineering pop-up event at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. They were helped by 20 of our member volunteers, many of whom were students at the University of Manchester.
The main activity introduced visitors to the science of nail varnish; in particular the difference between gel nail varnish and the regular kind. Pots filled with strands of wool and small pieces of Velcro were used to demonstrate the concept of radical polymerisation (a process found in gel nail varnish.
Perhaps the most unusual part of the activity however was a fake hand, with a different type of nail varnish on each finger, including magnetic, thermochromic and UV active. The fake hand attracted a lot of attention from passers-by, and allowed the volunteers to talk about the science behind each type of nail varnish.
In another activity, volunteers asked members of the public to identify different fragrances, using a wooden shape sorting game to explain how receptors in the nose will only recognise specific molecules, in the same way that the shapes will only fit into the correctly-shaped holes.
This activity was carried out on usherette trays so that the volunteers could come out from behind the stand and go out to the public.
The stand was a great success, and received around 1000 visitors over the course of the day. "Our stand was located close to the Disney Store which meant that we had a constant stream of families with small children passing by throughout the day", said Katayune.
One of the volunteers said: "It was so great to see genuine interest and excitement on people's faces when explaining things and doing demonstrations with them – mostly the kids being excited but also how interested some of the parents were!"
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