Cheltenham is a great town for festivals. At the beginning of June, it was time for the the Cheltenham Science Festival. Thea, who is eight years old and in Year 3, went to two events with her mum, as well as a school trip with her class. One of the things she saw was a giant, mechanical spider, as well as a lot of explosions and some smashing chocolate!
Visiting the Cheltenham Science Festival with school – by Thea
On Friday 7th June, our class went to the Science Festival. We split into groups and did different things. I was in Mrs Stanley’s group.
First we did a trail in which we had to answer questions from posters on posts and write the answer on the sheet!
After that we had we had lunch.
At the Discover Zone we looked at how you made one pennies turn gold!
Then we went over to a lady who had set up a stall in which you had to feel around
in a box and you had to identify the object only with your fingers not your eyes.
Then we smashed some chocolate. First I smashed a Dairy Milk bar of chocolate but that did not work very well. So I tried a Fudge Finger and it was very good. Then we learned about cogs and gears.
After we did the cogs, we went to see a show about ICE! It was called Strange Ice, about different kinds of ice. Some of the girls in my class touched some dry and normal ice in bags to compare them. They said that the dry ice was dry and the normal ice was wet. There was also an explosion. I enjoyed it a lot. The Science Festival was epic!
Science Misadventures – by Thea and Natalie, her mum
This is what happened at the weekend, when went to see some more science events. On the way we saw a huge mechanical spider which was wandering around the festival. Then we went into a big tent to see ‘Science Misadventures’.
“The presenter of the show was Fran Scott. She told the audience about her job as a Science Demonstration Developer. She loves her job but when she was little she didn’t even know it existed! First she talked to us about friction, and showed us how friction could lift up a car with just the pages of a book. She overlapped the pages of two books, one page at a time, and then two children from the audience tried to pull the two books apart, but they couldn’t! The friction between the pages, which is caused by roughness, doesn’t allow the pages to move apart. She showed us a video of the experiment to lift a car using the same method. It worked: I thought it was brilliant!”
“After that we learned about liquids. Tomato ketchup in a glass bottle is very hard to get out. Two children from the audience had different ideas how to get it out and they went on stage and they had a race to get the ketchup into a jug. The winning method was holding the bottle upside down, shaking it with the lid off. It was not too messy. What didn’t work was hitting the bottle very hard on the bottom.”
Ketchup is a thick liquid that becomes more runny when a force is applied to it. For example, Fran got her ketchup out of the bottle by poking a knife into it, and it poured out. The knife was a force, and tapping the bottle was also a force.
Thea remembers the opposite kind of liquid…
“OOBLECK is orange goo. Fran made it from mixing cornflour and water. But if you push it around it turns into a solid. As soon as you stop moving it, it goes into a liquid again. A factory has made it into a foam sheet version, also orange, used for protecting fragile things, like phones. It is also known as D30.”
“Another thing Fran did was to set a bubble alight. Then, she had two bowls of water, one plain water and one with washing up liquid and hydrogen in (she poured it out of a balloon and into the water). Then she asked for a grown-up volunteer to put his hands in the plain water and then to scoop up all the bubbles floating on the top of the hydrogen bowl. He held them, looked away, and she put a flame to the bubbles, and there was an EXPLOSION!”
Thea’s verdict: “Fran was very funny, her job was exciting and I learned a new word: Oobleck”
The Over-Ambitious Demo Challenge
Later that day, Thea and her best friend, Olivia, went to see one of the last shows of the Science Festival.
There were three science demonstrators: Stefan Gates from CBBC’s Gastronuts, Disaster Chef and Incredible Edibles, Zoe Laughlin, who mixes art, engineering and science and last year’s winner of the challenge, Ian Simmons, who has done some crazy experiments with flaming sausages in the past!
“The challenge was to come up with an idea that was a risky experiment to be the most impressive and win the audience over,” Thea explains. “The risk was… that it might not work.”
“Ian went first and tried to make a bomb out of liver (yes, real liver – yuck). He mixed it with hydrogen peroxide in a bottle and we waited. Then he tried again, and we waited. We counted down, starting from 5, to 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, -1, -2 and so on until he gave up. In the end, the experiment was a big failure.”
“Then it was Stefan, who thought of five different uses for a fire-extinguisher, not including putting out a fire. My favourites were: a funnel on top of the fire-extinguisher which blew out marshmallows into the audience, and strapping the fire-extinguisher to an office chair, setting it off, and it turned him around in a circle on the chair. It looked like a rocket!”
“Then Zoe went next. She fitted her experiments into her handbag! First she used a special tape called Gecko tape to stick her phone to glass. The tape is very strong but it is also not sticky if you touch it. It was so strong that the experiment broke her phone. While she was doing this, one of the presenters, Steve, called her phone and it started ringing but she couldn’t answer it!”
“Then she did a cheeky demonstration. She talked about farting when you’re in a big group and she wanted to explain how to do a silent fart! She had made rubber bottoms – one was a copy of her bottom, the other her boyfriend’s – and she brought a whoopee cushion. She demonstrated that if a fart comes out of a bigger opening or ‘aperture’, it will be quieter than if the opening is small. A handy tip!”
“After a few more experiments, the audience did a cheer-monitor, and Stefan Gates won!”
Thea’s verdict: “We found it funny and brilliant. It was funny that Ian’s experiments didn’t work, and it was even hilarious when Stefan did an explosion that went off before he was ready and gave us all a shock. Experiments don’t always work but trying out helps you find the answer in the end.”
Fran Scott – Science Demonstration Developer