The Great Exhibition Road Festival 2022 offers innovative inspiration

Innovative ideas and unique experiences from science and the arts are showcased as the Great Exhibition Road Festival transforms South Kensington.

The revolutionary theory and practice of science and the arts formed the backdrop for the Great Exhibition Road Festival 2022: Pioneerswhich saw over 38,000 visitors flock to South Kensington for the weekend festival.

Imperial College London has partnered with the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Royal College of Music, as well as the Goethe-Institut, Royal College of Art, Royal Parks and the Royal Geographical Society to coordinate and deliver a unique program of events. Olympian Sir Mo Farah even stopped by the Festival to encourage visitors to “exercise their minds”.

Lectures, workshops, performances and activities saw audiences inspired by innovation in medicine, art, technology, design, chemistry and more, reality experiences virtual world to insight into forgotten stories, untold stories and scientific breakthroughs. As in previous years, the comprehensive program drew on the vast expertise of the College, the museums and cultural institutions that collaborated in its realization.

Passion for pollinators

For families and for children, I think it’s great to have the opportunity to discover different scientific projects that you will probably never know about if you don’t come to this type of event. A Festival visitor

Bee ecologist Dr Richard Gill of the Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park) was delighted to introduce the public to the wonders of pollinators with ‘Bees and Us’. Along with his colleague, Dr Peter Graystock, along with a team of volunteers from Imperial Oil, the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation and Seedball, he led a hands-on workshop packed with information and activities.

For him, the Festival was a positive opportunity to “generate enthusiasm for bees and butterflies, to showcase ecology and to educate the public about the threats and damage that bees face”. The stand also explored ways to support pollinators, with children having the opportunity to make a bee-friendly seed ball to plant at home.

Creating wonders with science and art

Neuroscientists Ani Kulkarni and Mathilde le Gal de Kerangal from the Department of Bioengineering have joined forces with science artist Nick Sayers to celebrate mind tricks with “Create Your Own Brain Illusions”. Showcasing a work adapting the technology of old record players operating at different speeds to create illusions, Nick said: “I enjoyed getting people excited about science and its creative applications, and the connection between art and science. The children were invited to create their own brain illusions by drawing bicycle parts and spinning their image on the adapted record players.

Explore the world of nano

In the Magnificent Molecules area, chemistry PhD student Rupali Dabas was ready to introduce nano-medicine. “My job is to fabricate nanoparticles for mRNA delivery, similar to what was used in COVID vaccine technology. Today we want to share our passion for science and perhaps debunk some of the myths around nanoparticles – they are so amazing at what they can accomplish, with immense potential to transform and revolutionize medical research.

Zoning in

This year’s Festival was bigger than ever, spilling over into the great outdoors, with visitors invited to explore themed areas of interest. Princes Gardens hosted the Hands-On Families Zone, filled with games, storytelling, crafts and experiments for budding scientists, engineers and even mini suffragettes. Kids could build a bug, try paper marbling, or discover the world of badgers.

The Curiosity Zone provided a ‘science selection box’ of activities for all ages on Imperial College Road, exploring Imperial’s fascinating research, including disease-diagnosing light and 3D-printed bones. Visitors were invited to make DNA-printed bracelets, origami boats and microchip key chains.

Inside, the Medical Wonderland Zone explored advances in the fight against malaria and cancer, while the Royal Geographical Society Adult Zone offered fashion upcycling, cloud demonstrations and controlled corrosion alongside drinks on the terrace.

I really enjoyed meeting the geologists who explained carbon capture to me simply because I didn’t know much about it and it was very interesting. It was good because I really only came for the kids, I didn’t really know I was going to get that much. A Festival visitor

The Smart Machines Zone offered a glimpse into advances in artificial intelligence and the digital realm, while the Future Design Zone invited visitors to explore cutting-edge innovation across all four floors of the Dyson Building.

Visitors were able to explore the world of nano in the Magnificent Molecules Zone, and on Sunday, the Neurodiversity Zone celebrated the positive impact of different thoughts in science and the arts, with lectures, activities and unique calming environments.

Inspirational conferences

In addition to a wide range of activities, the public was able to attend a series of fascinating lectures led by inspiring public figures. Panelists and speakers explored topics ranging from climate change and aging, to the search for life on Mars and the untold stories of LGBTQ+ lives in our museums. Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman explored how science and technology could help overcome environmental and geopolitical challenges at the poles. Curator Annemarie Bilclough discussed the life and legacy of Beatrix Potter as an artist and natural scientist, while author, filmmaker and lecturer Juliet Jacques discussed her latest work exploring the lives of people trans and non-binary.

Engage Londoners

Vicky Brightman, Festival Director and Head of Audience Engagement at Imperial, said: “The Festival is a special opportunity to engage Londoners in cutting-edge research at Imperial, to gain insights from of a wide range of people to help further inform our research and inspire people of all ages through unique scientific and artistic collaborative events.

“We are extremely grateful to the hundreds of staff and students from our Imperial Community, and our cultural neighbors, who take part in public engagement events, including the Great Exhibition Road Festival. Their creativity and dedication make events like this possible.

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