Engineering and the Environment

Taking science and engineering to the people

11 June 2012


Engineering staff and students have been showcasing their work to curious members of the public, highlighting research ranging from dealing with space junk and robotics to Pythagoras’ monochord.

The ‘Bringing Research to Life' roadshow was at INTECH Science Centre and Planetarium in Winchester to interest and delight visitors gathering for Professor Malcolm Coe's sell-out public lecture on Stonehenge, the Pyramids and Astronomy. 

Among the displays, undergraduate Andy Busse invited people to try their hand at controlling a robot designed to pick up magnetic squares. PhD researcher George Perakis had constructed a ‘monochord' to illustrate Pythagoras' discovery 2,500 years ago that if a single string was divided and plucked at certain ratios, it would sound more pleasant than at other ratios. A giant water tank helped people listen to the sound of different sized bubbles and investigate the significance of this phenomenon. 

Visitors were fascinated. INTECH volunteer David Harris says: "These displays are great to enthuse children about science, but they're good fun for adults too." Scott Hadden, who is studying part-time for a degree in astronomy as a mature student, questioned the students about robotics and space junk. "It's amazing to find out about the latest research," he adds. Sheila Evans turned up to see the lecture and was pleased to discover the University's displays: "I'm taking an Open University degree in science and was interested to find out what's going on at Southampton."

"We hold many events for school children but we wanted to use this opportunity to bring the wonders of engineering and our cutting-edge research to adults," explains Dr Tony Curran, who co-ordinates the University of Southampton's ‘Bringing Research to Life' roadshow. This year, work from nine research groups across the University are being exhibited to more than 10,000 people. The next events will be at the Cheltenham Science Festival (12-17 June) and Bestival on the Isle of Wight in September.