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BBC R&D at The Big Bang Science Fair 2011

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Ant Miller Ant Miller | 17:30 UK time, Monday, 14 March 2011

At ExCel in London's docklands last week schools and companies from across the world of Science Technology Engineering and Maths (aka STEM) came together for the Big Bang Science Fair, the culmination of educational science and technology competitions from across the UK.  The BBC were there in strength, with Bang Goes the Theory, Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention, 21CC, Class Clips, Bitesize, and this year BBC R&D went along too.


BBC R&D at Big Bang Fair- Setting up

The team set up demonstrations for Big bang last Wednesday

The show tours the country- last year it was in Manchester.  This year for the first time we sent a team from R&D taking three demos, plus an additional team based on the British Science Association stand (more details on that tomorrow).  We also had a team at Maker Faire in Newcastle this weekend, so it's been a busy few days!



School parties enjoy the Cloak of Invisibility

David demonstrates the "Cloak of Invisibility" to a schools group.

On Thursday and Friday we saw thousands of groups from schools across the southeast, and we all found the interest and engagement from the pupils really encouraging.  Alongside the visiting groups were children from hundreds of schools competing in the science project competition, and teams from the Formula 1 in Schools competition.  It was really inspiring to see so much young talent in the UK's young scientists and engineers.

Richard Wescott from BBC Breakfast fronts this short film from the show too- featuring one of our favourites, the flying silver penguins!

On the BBC R&D stand we had, over the course of the event, four demos.

  • With the 'Virtual Animator' we took an eminently hackable gesture based games interface and built on software that allows users to animate their own drawings and the drawings of others.  Our research is exploring the use of gesture based interfaces generally, and specifically for media creation as well as control.

The 'Cloak of Invisibility': With retroreflective cloth which behaves like motorway signs we make solid background colours perfect for the classic 'green screen' special effects process, so we can show a cloak of invisibility.

On Thursday we showed for the first ever time our Binaural Ear Swapper, which used modified compact noise cancelling earphones to explore the amazing effects of manipulating sounds from right inside our own ears.  However, testing in the lab had failed to take into account the creative ways in which children interacted with the system. Sadly, we decided to retire the demo so we could make corrections and improvements for next time.

For Friday and Saturday the demos included the Lenticular Autostereoscopic television showing glasses-free 3D.  This particular technology is unlikely to make it into livingrooms, but this prototype from Philips shows the interesting effect of 3D without glasses.


Glasses free 3D on the BBC stand

Chris explains the lenticular autostereoscopic system to visitors to the BBC R&D stand.

We still don't know how many visitors we had over the three days- initial estimates for the show as a whole were about 32000, but maybe we had more.  To everyone who came to see us, thanks for dropping by- we hope we helped make the show as facinating and exciting for you as it was for us. 





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