‘Nina and the Neurons’ is a CBeebies show that brings science to life for our young audience. In the new series, Nina and the Neurons are concentrating on engineering, and we caught up with Valerie, the Assistant Producer to find out more…
Can you tell us a bit about the new series?
series is all about engineering - Nina and her five animated sense neurons show
us how aeroplanes fly, how bridges stay up, and how robots work. Nina is
joined by children from all over the UK to try out fun experiments in her
workshop and visit some of the country's most impressive engineering
Why did you decide that Nina should Go Engineering?
Nearly everything you
can think of uses engineering in some way.
It’s all about solving problems and making things work better.
Engineering can cover anything from computers to biscuits, so it’s not just
about cogs and spanners, although they’re great too! There’s definitely
something for everyone in this series. At the moment, there’s a real shortage
of young people becoming engineers – it would be great if we could inspire some
viewers to take up the challenge – they could be designing and building the
technology of tomorrow.
How did you approach making the concepts of engineering accessible for little ones?
We try and simplify some really quite tricky science concepts into three key experiments. The children don’t just watch Nina demonstrate, they get hands-on experience and try things out for themselves. We use games and familiar objects to really bring concepts to life. For example, we used a see-saw to show how cranes stay balanced, and giant knitting to explain ship building!
What kinds of locations did you visit during the filming?
Nina and the children visit
some incredible places to see engineering in action. The Thames Barrier is
opened just for us to demonstrate hydraulics and we see how Cruachan Power
Station makes electricity from water. We ride on a giant Hovercraft on the Isle
of Wight, and meet some very clever football-playing robots in Edinburgh. Then
there are the combine harvesters in Aberdeen, and testing out Europe’s highest
glass floor in Portsmouth - to name just a few highlights!
What did you most enjoy about working on the production?
It’s really rewarding to
see young people getting excited by the experiments we’ve designed, especially when
they come away having learned something that they didn’t know before. All of
the Nina team are really passionate about science and it’s great to share that
with the children who come on the show and those who watch. It's always
surprising to see what the children are impressed by - it can be the stuff
that's really easy to set up, like getting the weighing scales to balance, or the
stuff that we've had to really work at, like building our own canal lock.
Were there any funny moments during filming?
We tend to use a cuddly
toy puppet during our filming to help the children get used to the cameras. The
puppet sits on top of the camera to encourage them to look into the lens. It became
so popular that some of the children accidentally asked the puppet their
questions rather than Nina! It’s always really funny when we’re filming Nina
and the children dancing to the closing song. Literally everyone there has to
join in: the film crew, the director, the production team and the children's
mums and dads, so that no-one will be too self-conscious to dance. You can
guess who the best dancers are!
How have you translated the spirit of the show into online activities?
‘Nina’s Engineering Playground’ is a selection of new mini-games that allow little ones to experiment and play with lots of engineering concepts, with the help of the Neurons, of course. They mean that everyone watching can now become one of Nina's 'Engineers' too. The games tie in closely with the episodes of the show, and players will experiment with conveyor belts, hot air balloons and building blocks to help the Neurons collect shiny stars.