Borders science fest set to launch with a bang

Visitors to Melrose this week can’t help but have noticed the striking display boards at Melrose Rugby Club and the adjacent St Mary’s School.

These huge images are a celebration of Scottish science on loan from the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh and they herald this year’s Bang Goes the Borders science festival which takes place in St Mary’s School tomorrow and Saturday.

This year’s event has been extended to include an evening of entertaining lectures, which start at 7pm tomorrow, featuring scientists from the Borders and the capital.

Dr Sara Shinton, festival co-organiser says she is delighted with the opportunity to extend the audience for this year’s event.

She said: “Last year we had a focus on primary school children, but this time the lectures give us the opportunity to reach out to adults and teenagers.

“We have found three really engaging speakers who are keen to tell a Borders audience about their research into supercomputers, lasers and medical textiles.”

Rounding off the evening is the multi-media Zombie Science lecture, complete with demonstrations and the chance to develop zombie-defence strategies. This spoof lecture, developed especially for adults and teenagers has been seen by more than 12,000 people across the UK.

Co-organiser Andrew Morris, of St Mary’s School, says that the expansion of the festival hasn’t affected a key attraction for last year’s audience.

He explained: “We understand that other festivals and science centres need to charge admission, but when added to the cost of the trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow this makes an expensive day out.

“With a second year of generous sponsorship from Rathbone Brothers and equally generous support from Heriot-Watt University we are able to offer all our events free of charge.”

The focus of the festival is again the family science day on Saturday when doors open at 10am and a packed schedule of shows runs until 4pm.

There will be a mix of workshops and drop-in activities with no requirement for advance booking.

Mr Morris says this flexible approach is designed to help people fit the event into their busy weekends. He added: “With an open programme there will be lots of exciting things happening at every point during the day.

“However, we hope people will come and join us for the whole day and we will have refreshments on site so they don’t need to miss a thing.”

Weather permitting, there will be activities outside as well, with the opportunity to try exergaming with Heriot-Watt University and to learn the secrets of medieval construction from a Historic Scotland’s expert.

“The Moredun Institute’s exhibition will also be placed around the school grounds. Workshops will be themed in zones and one of the biggest will contain “disgusting bodies”.

Dr Shinton says that this is a reaction to the success of some of last year’s more grisly shows.

She admitted: “I’m not sure what it says about the kids who visited, but the events that got people talking were about scabs and poo.

“This year we have embraced this theme with enthusiasm and there will be a whole area of the festival explaining some of the more disgusting things our bodies do with demonstrations on bogies, nappies, earwax, poo and scabs. All the presenters are researchers from prestigious universities, so hopefully the parents can be reassured that there will be a lot of science amongst the slimy stuff!”

Liam Harvey, the headmaster of St Mary’s, is delighted to see the event return.

He told us: “We are really looking forward to hosting Bang Goes The Borders again this year after the success of last year.

“The whole school campus will be involved with 25 shows taking place throughout the day and we have recruited a small army of helpers to ensure that all our visitors can find their way to events.

“We’re doing everything to ensure people make the most of this fantastic opportunity to meet and play with some of Scotland’s most exciting scientists.”

There will be a memento of the day for the first 500 children to arrive as they will receive a Bang Goes the Borders goodie-bag full of science-themed 
treats.

Details of the shows and information about the day can be found at www.bgtb.org and the Bang Goes The Borders Facebook page.